Physician Assistant Loses Job for Religious Beliefs

Physician Assistant Loses Job for Religious Beliefs

Zachary Stevens has spent more than a decade serving underprivileged people around the world in the Name of Jesus Christ. But it was his devotion to Christ that got him in trouble with the Department of Corrections in the state of Washington.

Stevens, a physician’s assistant, earned a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Columbia International University, in Columbia, South Carolina—a school well known for its commitment to world evangelization. He went on to serve his community of Bremerton, Washington, as an EMT and paramedic, while volunteering at a free medical clinic, helping to develop a job-training curriculum for at-risk youth and supervising youth in an overnight shelter. He then spent time in Indonesia, overseeing a community health education project for medically underserved villages.

From 2006 to 2017, Stevens served as associate director and then CEO of the relief and development organization Professionals International.

Then last year, after completing his education and training as a physician’s assistant, Stevens applied for a position with the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) as an Advanced Care Practitioner (ACP) at the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC).

It seemed like a great fit—the MCC is a government-designated “Health Professional Shortage Area,” and Stevens has spent his career serving those who do not have ready access to medical care and other services. He received a conditional employment offer, and the facility’s medical director described him as a “phenomenal fit.”

But when he asked for a religious exemption from directly providing transitioning hormones to transgender inmates, the facility rescinded its employment offer.

On Oct. 31, Stevens, represented by the First Liberty law firm, which specializes in religious liberty cases, filed a discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the claim, Stevens was told during his job interviews that an outside endocrinologist managed transgender treatments, so no MCC employee would need to administer gender-transitioning hormones directly. Further, Stevens said that some of the medical providers at the facility told him that no one on staff had been required to provide such therapy.

But just days after Stevens received the conditional employment offer, the medical director informed him that he would be required to administer transgender hormone therapy. Two days later, a human resources officer called Stevens and asked if his objection was religious in nature. Over the following weeks, Stevens clarified his objections and requested a reasonable accommodation for his religious beliefs. But in February of this year, the facility rescinded its employment offer.

“It is clear to me,” Stevens said in his discrimination claim, “that I met every qualification for the ACP job at MCC except one: MCC/DOC disapproved of my religious beliefs and refused to provide even the most minimal accommodation for my religious beliefs.

“I very much want to treat and help transgender patients with their medical needs,” he said. “As these patients are part of an often-disenfranchised population, I am eager to provide them competent and quality medical care as a physician assistant. My religious convictions, however, preclude me from personally providing them invasive gender identity-affirming therapies and procedures such as hormone therapy.”

First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys, who is representing Stevens, said: “Employers can neither ask about your religious beliefs nor make employment decisions because of them. Zach’s former employer did both.”

 

Above: The Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington.

Photo: Jason Redmond/Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo

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