Christian group sues AG Nessel over civil rights interpretation

(The Center Square) – A Christian health care group says that Michigan’s recently reinterpreted civil rights law relating to sexual orientation and gender identity violates its constitutional right to religion.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Christian Healthcare Centers, a Michigan faith-based medical nonprofit, sued Attorney General Dana Nessel, who’s responsible for enforcing Michigan’s civil rights law. In June, state courts reinterpreted state law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The lawsuit says that Michigan law requires Christian Healthcare Centers to hire people of other faith, prescribe cross-sex hormones to alter a patient’s biological sex, and use pronouns other than a person’s biological sex – all of which violate the ministry’s religious beliefs.

“Christian Healthcare Centers should be free to continue its vibrant outreach to the community through its low-cost, high-quality medical care,” ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch said in a statement. “It’s unconstitutional for the state to require that this Christian ministry abandon its faith principles in order to continue serving those in need.”

Christian Healthcare Centers says it provides health care to all while offering  reduced prices for patients with lower incomes who can’t afford quality care elsewhere. The nonprofit offers a Christian alternative to traditional primary care, focusing on meeting patients’ medical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Christian Healthcare Centers’ main clinic is in Plainfield Charter Township, and it has a second clinic in Newaygo.

“Christian Healthcare Centers should not be forced to check its faith at the clinic door – the very faith that motivates the nonprofit to open its doors to help those in need,” ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton said in a statement. “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. 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.”

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit Christian Healthcare Centers v. Nessel in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.

“The First and Fourteenth Amendments protect Christian Healthcare’s religious and expressive freedom to do so,” the lawsuit reads. “Just as the government cannot force a synagogue to hire Hindus or an Islamic cultural center to promote alcohol use, it cannot force Christian Healthcare to compromise its religious character, hire those who do not share its faith, or speak messages that contradict that faith.”