GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A judge must throw out a lawsuit filed by a Grand Rapids-area nonprofit challenging Michigan’s civil rights law that now includes protections for LGBTQ people, says Michigan Attorney General Dana nessel.
“Simply put, there is no immediate danger of harm and the plaintiffs’ concerns are based solely on conjecture,” the defendants wrote in briefs filed earlier this month in US District Court for Western Michigan.
The defendants argue that the lawsuit is premature and does not show “irreparable damage” or a “great likelihood of success,” which is grounds for an injunction. Rather, Christian Healthcare Centers based his complaint on “what he fears might happen,” such as potentially forcing him to provide gender-affirming care or referring to patients by their preferred pronouns.
“At this time, the complaint contains only abstract allegations anchored in future events that may not occur at all, or may occur differently than what Christian Healthcare anticipates,” the motion reads.
Christian Healthcare Centers filed a federal lawsuit in late August, a month after Michigan Supreme Court ruled discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal. The nonprofit is seeking an injunctive and declaratory injunction based on the claim that the law “poses an imminent threat” to its right to operate as a religious ministry.
“It is purely speculative,” the motion argues.
The lawsuit names Nessel, who is responsible for enforcing civil rights law, Michigan Department of Civil Rights Executive Director John Johnson Jr., and the seven members of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.
Michigan law protects LGBTQ people from discrimination after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in late July that the word “sex” in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 includes sexual orientation. The 5-2 ruling came after the state was sued by two companies that argued the state could not investigate claims of LGBTQ discrimination under the authority of a 2018 interpretive statement.
Because of the decision, Christian Healthcare says it must now provide medical treatments that do not align with its belief in “the immutability of biological sex.” He also argued that the court ruling complicates his right to hire only people who share his religious beliefs because everything they do is “infused with faith.”
But the defendants point out that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act allows for religious exemptions, which “further lessens the possibility of imminent investigation and prosecution and underscores that this lawsuit is premature.”
Christian Healthcare has not applied for that waiver.
“Plaintiff requests that this court grant this injunction despite the fact that there are no ongoing civil rights allegations or investigations regarding Plaintiff’s policies, patterns, or practices. This court should deny the request for such extraordinary relief,” the defendants argued.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has also not yet responded to the high court’s ruling. It would be “more effective” for the nonprofit health care provider to wait for a formal policy to address their concerns, the motion maintains.
Christian Healthcare says it provides health care to anyone regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity at its two West Michigan facilities.
He is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a national nonprofit legal organization.
The Christian legal interest group has been involved in nearly 30 US Supreme Court cases involving religious freedom, same-sex marriage, and abortion. Alliance Defending Freedom has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBTQ beliefs. He responded by calling the legal center a “radical left organization.”
Alliance Defending Freedom’s lead attorney, John Bursch, previously said the case against Nessel could set a precedent.
“It could be a ruling that other courts in other states across the country seek to ensure that religious organizations can hire people who share their faith, can advertise that they are trying to hire people who share their faith, and can run their businesses. and organizations in ways that do not violate their religious beliefs,” she said.
US District Judge Jane M. Beckering will now consider the complaint and the motion to dismiss.
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