News Analysis

Pronoun showdown: A judge upholds a Christian doctor’s dismissal

A judge has declared the belief that God created everyone as either male and female, and that this cannot be changed, as “incompatible with human dignity and [in] conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”

According to the Christian Legal Centre, the ruling of the employment tribunal judge places the belief – cited by Jesus himself – on a par with racist and Neo-Nazi ideologies held to be “not worthy of respect in a democratic society” in earlier judicial decisions. Andrea Williams, the centre’s chief executive, said the decision also represented the “first time in the history of English law that a judge has ruled that free citizens must engage in compelled speech”.

The tribunal, sitting in Birmingham, had examined a challenge to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) by Dr David Mackereth, an Accident and Emergency doctor with 30 years’ experience.

Dr Mackereth, a Reformed Baptist, was sacked after he said during a training session that he would record only the biological sex of patients rather than their choice of gender, therefore rejecting their “preferred pronouns”.

He said his beliefs were based on biblical revelation and on biology, but the DWP argued that his belief in Genesis 1:27 was not a belief protected by the Equality Act 2010 and was “mere opinion”.

Afterwards, 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,” he continued. “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.”