Doctor’s foundational Bible belief ruled ‘incompatible with human dignity’2 October 2019 Issued by: Christian Legal Centre
An experienced Christian doctor who was forced out of his job working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after refusing to use transgender pronouns has lost his Employment Tribunal case.
The tribunal ruled that his belief in the Biblical view of what it is to be male and female was ‘incompatible with human dignity.’
The judgment will have serious ramifications for Christian professionals and indeed all medical professionals, as the judgment dictates the language that professionals must use in the workplace. The judgment is also contrary to scientific reality and is likely to undermine freedom of speech in the workplace.
Sacked for refusing to use transgender pronouns
In July 2019, Dr David Mackereth, 56, a doctor for 26 years in the NHS, challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at Birmingham Employment Tribunal after he was sacked from his job for refusing to identify clients by their chosen gender instead of their biological sex.
Counsel representing Dr Mackereth, Christian Legal Centre’s Michael Phillips, argued that the DWP discriminated against Dr Mackereth because of his Christian beliefs, including: “His belief in the truth of the Bible, and in particular, the truth of Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It follows that every person is created by God as either male or female. A person cannot change their sex/gender at will. Any attempt at, or pretence of, doing so, is pointless, self-destructive, and sinful.”
The DWP’s case against Dr Mackereth, however, claimed that his belief in Genesis 1:27 was not a belief protected by the Equality Act 2010 and was a ‘mere opinion.’
Foundational Christian beliefs not ‘worthy of respect’
In the judgment, to be published this week, Judge Perry puts ‘transgender rights’ ahead of Christian freedoms and in effect forces Christians to use compelled speech in order to not offend those who believe in gender-fluidity.
The judge found that Dr Mackereth “holds to the principles of the Great Reformation of the 16th Century including a commitment to the supremacy of the Bible as the infallible, inerrant word of God as his final authority in all matters of faith and practice.” That includes his belief in the truth of Genesis 1:27, and the logical consequence: scepticism about transgenderism and refusal to use transgender pronouns.
The judge ruled that “belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals” (para 197, emphasis added). He continued that “in so far as those beliefs form part of his wider faith, his wider faith also does not satisfy Grainger [the requirement of being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others]” (para 231, cf. para 157).
In the Bible, Genesis 1:27 establishes the foundational doctrine that human beings are made, male and female, in the image of God and therefore of great value and dignity. The teaching is foundational to Judeo-Christian thought and was highly influential in political history as concepts of tolerance and human rights were first developed.
The ruling will have profound ramifications, excluding foundational Christian beliefs from the protection of human rights and anti-discrimination law. The ruling puts a belief in the Bible on a par with the racist and neo-Nazi ideologies which have been held to be ‘not worthy of respect in democratic society’ in earlier judicial decisions.
‘Would you call a six-foot bearded man, madam?’
At proceedings in July, giving evidence, Dr Mackereth had said that he was asked in a conversation with his line manager: “If you have a man six foot tall with a beard who says he wants to be addressed as ‘she’ and ‘Mrs’, would you do that?”
Dr Mackereth, who now works as an NHS emergency doctor in Shropshire, said that in good conscience he could not do this and said that his contract was subsequently terminated over his refusal.
He told the tribunal he was suspended the following month after being “interrogated” by his boss, James Owen, for refusing to “call any six-foot-tall bearded man ‘madam’ on his whim”. The medic claims he was told he was “overwhelmingly likely” to lose his job unless he agreed.
Dr Mackereth left his role on 25 June 2018, after an email exchange with Mr Owen in which he was instructed to follow the “process as discussed in your training”.
The email read: “If however, you do not want to do this, we will respect your decision and your right to leave your contract.” Dr Mackereth replied: “I am a Christian and in good conscience cannot do what the DWP is requiring of me.”
‘Freedom of speech has died in this country’
Dr Mackereth gave evidence that he did not resign his position and was the victim of direct discrimination and harassment.
He argued that he was dismissed “not because of any realistic concerns over the rights and sensitivities of transgender individuals, but because of my refusal to make an abstract ideological pledge”.
Responding to the judge’s ruling, Dr Mackereth said: “I am not alone in being deeply concerned by this outcome. Staff in the NHS, even those who do not share my Christian convictions, are also disturbed as they see their own freedom of thought and speech being undermined by the judges’ ruling.
“No doctor, or researcher, or philosopher, can demonstrate or prove that a person can change sex. Without intellectual and moral integrity, medicine cannot function and my 30 years as a doctor are now considered irrelevant compared to the risk that someone else might be offended.
“I believe that I have to appeal in order to fight for the freedom of Christians – and any other NHS member of staff – to speak the truth. If they cannot, then freedom of speech has died in this country, with serious ramifications for the practice of medicine in the UK.”
Compelled speech for first time in English law
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This is an astonishing judgment and one that if upheld will have seismic consequences not just for the NHS and for Christians, but anyone in the work place who is prepared to believe and say that we are created male and female.
“It is deeply disturbing that this is the first time in the history of English law that a judge has ruled that free citizens must engage in compelled speech. Here Judge Perry has ruled that Christianity is not protected by the Equality Act or the ECHR, unless it is a version of Christianity which recognises transgenderism and rejects a belief in Genesis 1:27.
“The teaching of Genesis 1:27 is repeated throughout the Bible, including by Jesus Christ himself. It is fundamental to establishing the dignity of every human person but is, in a bizarre ironic twist, being branded as incompatible with that dignity.
“No protection is given to beliefs ‘incompatible with human dignity’ and ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’. In the past this definition has only applied to the most extreme beliefs, such as those of Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis, and similar. It is quite shocking for the judge to put the belief in the Bible in the same category now.
“This is one of the most concerning rulings we have ever seen at the Christian Legal Centre and we are determined to continue to fight for justice in this case, not just for Dr Mackereth and Bible-believing Christians, but for everyone who believes that we are born male and female.
“People who suffer from gender dysphoria must be treated lovingly, but not telling the truth to these vulnerable people is unloving. Men cannot become women nor can women become men.”
Notes for editors
You can read the full judgment on our website.