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Hospital rabbi fired for comments about museum shooting

By The Associated Press,
First Amendment Center Online staff
10.20.09

WASHINGTON — A hospital rabbi who comforted the family of a security guard killed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has been fired for speaking and writing about the experience.

Rabbi Tamara Miller wrote on a Washington Post blog in June that "racism and bigotry rang out on the National Mall" when a shooter walked up to the museum June 10 and killed security guard Stephen T. Johns. He died at George Washington University Hospital.

The hospital fired Miller five weeks later, saying her essay and comments to a reporter violated hospital policy and federal patient privacy rules. Miller, who also spoke about why she had attended Johns' funeral, says she revealed nothing that was not already public knowledge.

The Washington Post reported Oct. 16 that the hospital contended that Miller's comments had violated HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, "which is designed to protect confidential patient information, because Miller referred to Johns and mentioned his treatment and death."

According to the Post, the hospital also said Miller's comments had violated a hospital policy against staff members' talking to the press without clearance.

Miller, according to the Post, accused the hospital of firing her over a salary complaint under the cover of the privacy and media policies.

But the newspaper quoted Lisa McDonald, a hospital marketing official, as saying, "The hospital's viewpoint is that she did release patient information," even if it had already appeared elsewhere from other sources.

Johns's family pastor supported Miller, asserting that her words had comforted the family and had not abridged its privacy, the Post said.

Washington Jewish Week first reported the dispute.

A white supremacist named James von Brunn is charged in the killing.


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