A doctor has claimed he was dismissed because his Christian beliefs prohibited him from addressing transgender benefit claimants by their preferred pronoun.
David Mackereth, who was training to be a health and disability assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said he was told he could not be employed if he refused to refer to patients as “he” or “she” according to their wishes, rather than the gender assigned at their birth.
He claims the DWP breached the Equality Act and his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion under article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
When protected characteristics collide
Having worked as a doctor since 1989, Dr Mackereth was being employed and trained by Advanced Personnel Management (APM), an employment agency for the DWP.
Dr Mackereth said outside the Birmingham employment tribunal yesterday: “Last year I was training to do medical assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions and because of my Christian convictions I felt I couldn’t use pronouns – the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ – in an arbitrary manner.
“I said that in good conscience I couldn’t do that. The DWP took some time to think about it and decided then that I wasn’t fit to do the job because of, I would say, my Christian convictions.
“So I am coming to court today because I want the right to practise medicine as a Christian doctor in the way that I always have.”
During his training for the job with APM, which would have involved him writing reports assessing disability benefit claimants for the DWP, an instructor informed Dr Mackereth that he must only refer to clients by the gender they identified with.
Speaking to the Telegraph last year, Dr Mackereth said: “I said that I had a problem with this. I believe that gender is defined by biology and genetics. And that as a Christian the Bible teaches us that God made humans male or female. I could have kept my mouth shut. But, it was the right time to raise it.
Dr Mackereth is a Christian hero who chose to sacrifice his distinguished professional career rather than compromise on the Bible and his conscience. The requirement to use so-called transgender pronouns defies common sense and Christian faith” – Andrea Williams, Christian Legal Centre
“The tutor took me aside and said he had passed my comments up the chain to the DWP.”
Dr Mackereth then received an email from APM saying the DWP had received legal advice that misgendering clients “could be considered to be harassment as defined by the 2010 Equality Act”, but that if he complied with DWP policy he could continue his training.
The doctor’s lawyers say he was asked: “What would you do if you were to assess someone who is obviously a man but asks to be referred to as ‘she’ or ‘Mrs’ in the report?”. Dr Mackereth replied that as a Christian, he could not accede to such a request in good conscience. He was suspended and, a week later, dismissed from his post.
The Christian Legal Centre, which is representing Dr Mackereth, say that the DWP discriminated against him 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.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Dr Mackereth is a Christian hero who chose to sacrifice his distinguished professional career rather than compromise on the Bible and his conscience. The requirement to use so-called transgender pronouns defies common sense and Christian faith. It serves no useful purpose except filtering out firm Christians and men of principle such as Dr Mackereth.
“If we tolerate this as a society, if we give in on the essential freedom of thought, conscience and religion, no other freedom is safe. We are determined to fight all the way to secure justice in this case. If freedom to tell the truth – in this case calling a man ‘he’ and a woman ‘she’ – is suppressed, then truth itself is suppressed.”
The case continues at the Midlands (West) employment tribunal.