A direct primary care practice has filed an appeal in a federal lawsuit against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel over a new state law that forces the organization to use preferred pronouns and hire people who disagree with its religious mission.
Christian Healthcare Centers (CHC) opened in 2018 in Grand Rapids, Michigan as an alternative to traditional primary care, offering a direct-pay model that also addresses patients’ spiritual needs.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing CHC in the case, along with Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which operates a Catholic school.
ADF filed the notice of appeal for both cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on August 23. A federal district court dismissed the original lawsuit on March 30.
Michigan’s civil rights law was expanded this year to include “sexual orientation and gender identity.” The law forces organizations to use preferred pronouns and, in CHC’s case, prescribe cross-sex hormones. CHC says it treats all patients regardless of sexual preference and identity, but employees must share the organization’s religious point of view and sign a statement to that effect.
“Christian Healthcare Centers serves everybody with compassionate care and respect, including patients who identify as the opposite of their biological sex, providing them with the same high-quality care it provides to all of its patients,” said ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton in a press release. “Yet this lawsuit is necessary to protect Christian Healthcare Centers’ constitutional rights and to ensure other religious organizations can freely operate according to the dictates of their faith.”
“It’s unconstitutional for the state to require that this Christian ministry abandon its faith principles in order to continue serving those in need,” said John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy at ADF.
The lawsuit is necessary to ensure the state does not take action against CHC or Sacred Heart, says Frampton.
“Christian Healthcare Centers is vulnerable to being punished under the new law in Michigan, which would keep the organization from helping clients and operating according to their religious beliefs,” said Frampton. “The threat they face is great and could result in significant criminal or civil penalties. No one should have to wait to be punished by the government to challenge an unconstitutional law.”
AnneMarie Schieber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing editor of Health Care News.
Christian Healthcare Centers, Inc. v. Dana Nessel et. al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern Division, August 29, 2023: https://adfmedialegalfiles.blob.core.windows.net/files/ChristianHealthcareCentersComplaint.pdf