An employment tribunal judgement that rejected a doctor’s discrimination claim after he refused to address a transgender patient using the correct pronouns has ‘profound ramifications’ for the profession, his lawyers have warned.
Dr David Mackereth, a doctor from Dudley, left his job as a disability benefits assessor after he would not refer to transgender claimants by their chosen sex, saying it went against his Christian beliefs.
He took his employer, the Department for Work and Pensions, to tribunal, claiming it had breached his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The 56-year-old brought a claim for harassment, direct and indirect discrimination against the DWP.
The tribunal panel threw out the claim, sparking the doctor’s lawyers to warn the case will have ‘profound ramifications for all medical professionals’ and that it puts a belief in the Bible ‘on a par with neo-Nazi ideologies’.
During the tribunal, the panel heard how Dr Mackereth left his job after a conversation with his line manager.
The judgement noted: ‘Essentially the issue he [Dr Mackareth] raises is that he was asked if he would refer to service users by their chosen sexuality, and thus their chosen style or title, relevant pronouns and their name, and that equated to the respondent [employer] applying pressure upon him to renounce his beliefs.’
In the judgement it was noted that Dr Mackereth claimed he had been ‘interrogate[d]’ by the DWP – but that he later admitted he ‘takes no issue with the manner in which that was done’ meaning ‘Dr Mackereth’s complaint essentially is that this was done at all’.
The panel went on to unanimously conclude that ‘lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism’ are ‘incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals’.
The Christian Legal Centre, which represented Dr Mackereth, said: ‘The ruling will have profound ramifications for Christian professionals and all medical professionals, as it dictates the language that professionals must use in the workplace.
‘It also excludes foundational Christian beliefs from the protection of human rights and anti-discrimination law. The ruling itself 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.’
Responding to the judgment, Dr Mackereth, who now works as an emergency doctor in Shropshire, 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.’
Dr Mackereth said he would be appealing the case ‘to fight for the freedom of Christians – and any other NHS member of staff – to speak the truth’.