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It is unusual that I should be able to report progress on topics recently covered in this rubric (SB, October 1, 2019), but the legal machinery has moved more quickly than I anticipated. On September 26, 2019 an employment tribunal in England dismissed Dr. David Mackereth’s case against his employer. The panel of judges found that there was no ground for Mackereth’s complaint that he was subject to discrimination/harassment on the basis of his religious beliefs. On the contrary, his beliefs are “incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others.” When I read that in the national and Christian press, I was so stunned that I had to read the judgment for myself—surely the decision has been misreported?

It has not.

First, Dr. Mackereth’s complaint was against the De­partment of Work of Pensions (DWP), which is a body of the UK government. His actions, namely, his refusal to address transgender people with their preferred pro­nouns falls foul of the DWP’s “policy on gender reas­signment,” which states:

A transgender customer may be undergoing any stage of their “transitioning” when they start to engage with DWP. They should be treated with respect and referred to in their preferred gender at all times. You should always address the customer in their presented sex— try to use the person’s name where possible rather than referring to a person’s gender.1

In other words, if a biological male with facial hair presents as Lucy rather than David, the DWP employee must address the customer as a female, not as a male— according to the customer’s perception or preference and not according to reality. That to do otherwise is a “backward step” and “detrimental to that person’s men­tal health” was the opinion of a registered nurse work­ing at the DWP. Some LGBTQ activists have called “misgendering” (the offence of applying the “wrong pronouns” to a person) a form of “violence,” and have argued for misgendering, especially when deliberate and persistent, to be criminalized.

Second, the DWP argues that Dr. Mackereth’s ac­tions are inconsistent with his duties as a doctor. As evidence, the DWP cites the General Medical Council’s “Code of Conduct, Good Medical Practice”:

You must treat patients as individuals and respect their dignity and privacy…. You must treat patients fairly whatever their life choices and beliefs…. You must not express your personal beliefs (including political, religious and moral beliefs) to patients in ways that exploit their vulnerability or are likely to cause them distress…. You must not unfairly discriminate against patients or colleagues by allowing your personal views to affect your professional relationships or the treatment you provide or arrange…. A doctor must not refuse to treat a particular patient or group of patients because of [his] personal beliefs or views about them.

Doctors and other medical staff adhere to those guidelines as a matter of course. For example, while a doctor might admonish a patient about his unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking, overeating, a lack of exercise and the like, he does not condemn a patient for his sins. A doctor does not urge a patient to stop forni­cating or to cease an adulterous relationship, although he might want to do so. That would be to express his “moral beliefs” in an inappropriate way—although outside of a medical consultation such a rebuke, which would be part of a Christian witness, is appropriate. A Christian doctor is not permitted to proselytize “on the job.” He may not attempt to convert a Muslim or Hin­du co-worker, for example, although he may witness to his co-workers outside of work. Use of a patient’s pre­ferred pronouns is now interpreted as belonging to a doctor’s “duty of care.”

Third, in the judgment appeal was made to the di­versity of opinions among Christians, something that Mackereth acknowledges. According to the panel of judges:

…it is not for us to consider if [Mackereth’s belief on gender] is a core element of the Christian faith. Dr. Mackereth accepted that not all individuals who describe themselves as Christians have the same beliefs as he.

Mackereth even submitted a document, Trans­formed, published by the London-based Evangelical Al­liance, which states:

One of the most contentious issues can be what to call a transgender person and which personal pronouns to use…. Christians disagree on this matter. For some, the balance of grace and truth is struck by using the person’s preferred name but not pronouns. For others, courtesy leads them to use the name and preferred pronoun of a transgender person. Finally, integrity means that some find any use of preferred names or pronouns leads to confusion and ultimately results in their participation in, and perpetuation of, deception.2

Transformed contains guidance on the usage of pro­nouns, arranging its advice under four headings: con­text, the law, relationship, and consistency. On the second point, we read, “If you are in a public role…you may be in breach of workplace policies or guilty of dis­crimination if you fail to address a person by their new name.” Mackereth can now identify with that. The Evangelical Alliance warns that “failing to use some­one’s preferred name will make further conversation difficult, if not impossible.” Finally, the document sug­gests “if we decline to use a trans person’s name, we should be consistent,” and gives the example of Cassius Clay’s name change to Mohammed Ali “as a sign of his freedom and allegiance to Islam,” which is hardly com­parable to this case: Clay converted to Islam, but a man cannot become a woman and vice versa.

The Evangelical Alliance opposes compulsion, how­ever—a person should not be compelled in law to use pronouns with which he is uncomfortable or the use of which would violate his conscience. In addition, the Christian Medical Fellowship is cited in the ruling as saying “[the Christian response is to] strongly endorse the human rights of transgender people, affirming their dignity and guarding them from discrimination.” How­ever, does endorsing the dignity of a person require af­firming him in his delusion, a word that Mackereth uses in his description of transgenderism?

Fourth, we see in this ruling the official view of the British government and the courts on Mackereth’s be­liefs, which are helpfully summarized. I find this as­pect of the judgment the most troubling: it has grave implications for free speech and freedom of religion in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The panel of judg­es summarizes Mackereth’s beliefs on the controvert­ed questions in three propositions: “belief in Genesis 1:27,” “lack of belief in transgenderism,” and “conscientious objection to transgenderism.”

[Belief in Genesis 1:27]: 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 pretense of, doing so, is pointless, self-destructive, and sinful.

 

[Lack of belief in transgenderism]: The lack of belief (i) that it is possible for a person to change their sex/ gender; (ii) that impersonating the opposite sex may be beneficial for an individual’s welfare; and/or (iii) that the society should accommodate and/or encourage anyone’s impersonation of the opposite.

 

[Conscientious objection to transgenderism]: The belief that it would be irresponsible and dishonest, for example, for a health professional to accommodate and/or encourage a patient’s impersonation of the opposite sex.

One might argue that Beliefs 2 and 3 are not explicitly religious or biblical articles of faith, but Belief 1 is simply a statement of the Word of God: all Christians believe that God is the Creator, that God made humans in His image, and that every human being is male or female by virtue of His creation, something that Jesus Christ reiter­ated in Matthew 19.

The judges summarize the DWP’s defense against Mackereth’s discrimination claim:

The respondents accept that Christianity is a protected characteristic. They do not accept that is so where Dr. Mackereth goes further in seeking to define the beliefs he relays [in his submitted testimony as outlined above] as a protected characteristic. The respondents argue that at the heart of those beliefs is intolerance towards transgender people, and that a refusal to respect the dignity of transgender people and their preferred form of address is incompatible with human dignity and conflicts with the fundamental rights of others.

In other words, Mackereth has the right to be a Christian and to practice Christianity, but his specific beliefs are evidence of “intolerance” and his refusal to address transgender people with their preferred forms of address [sir/madam, he/she, etc.] is “incompatible with human dignity.”

The panel of judges ruled in fundamental agreement with the DWP:

All three heads, 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…. We found that his beliefs [as outlined above] were likely to cause offence and have the effect of violating a transgender person’s dignity or creating a proscribed environment, or subjecting a transgender person to less favourable treatment…. In our judgment, refusing to refer to a transgender person by his/her/their birth sex, or relevant pronouns, titles or styles would constitute unlawful discrimination or harassment under the Equality Act…. It is important given the public interest in this case that we make clear this case did not concern whether Dr. Mackereth is a Christian and if that qualifies for protection under the Equality Act. That was never in dispute…. What this case concerned is whether he was entitled to manifest those beliefs in the circumstances that applied here. He accepted that his beliefs meant that insofar as a service user was a transgender individual within the meaning of the [Equality Act], that whilst he did not wish them to, his actions would cause offence and potentially breach the [Equality Act]. We find that if the service user also held a full gender recognition certificate Dr. Mackereth’s position was that he would also potentially breach the [Gender Recognition Act] for the reasons we give above.

This ruling is stunning: belief in Genesis 1:27 is “in­compatible with human dignity”! Mackereth plans to appeal. It raises all kinds of questions for Christians and churches: What must we do when the law forbids us to “misgender” a transgender person? Is it permis­sible for a Christian to use a transgender person’s “preferred pronouns”? Does that constitute lying, decep­tion, promotion of/approval of sin? What cost are we prepared to pay for our stand on these issues—the loss of employment, financial penalties, the loss of our chil­dren (if we refuse to teach them these delusions or to affirm them in them), or even imprisonment?

On a similar note Piers Morgan, the British TV presenter who labelled Mackereth as a bigot, sparked controversy when he scoffed at the idea of 100 gender or gender identities. The British Broadcasting Corpo­ration (BBC) has recently produced a video, “Identity: Understanding Sexual and Gender Identities,” targeted at children aged between nine and twelve years to be used in schools.3 At one point in the video a teacher explains, “So we know we’ve got male and female, but there are over 100, if not more, gender identities now…. You’ve got some people who might call themselves gender queer, who are just like ‘I don’t really want to be anything in particular, I’m just going to be me.’” The video also features Leo Lardie, a transgender activist, born female, now identifying as a male, who talked to the children about her genitalia (a conversation about which they were noticeably uncomfortable) and a Les­bian teacher who encouraged the children to consider whether they might be gay, if they liked a person of the same sex “in a slightly different way they do normally to their friends.”

This is not “education”—it is the grooming of im­pressionable children! Christian parents who enroll their children in the government-run schools take note!

Morgan sparred with Benjamin Butterworth who defended the BBC’s view of 100 gender identities, al­though when pushed by Morgan to define some of the more outlandish examples, Butterworth was unable to do so. “Can I, under this new world of self-identifica­tion, identify as a two-spirit, neutrois penguin?” asked Morgan, announcing his new identity as a “Two-spirit, gender-neutral, pangender, gender-fluid, fem penguin”!

Ofcom, the United Kingdom’s communications reg­ulator, received almost 1,000 complaints and almost 34,000 people signed an online petition to remove Piers Morgan from the show. Nevertheless, Ofcom ruled that, although Morgan’s comments “came close to rid­icule of those of a protected characteristic with the potential to offend some viewers,” given Morgan’s advo­cacy of transgender issues, “further investigation is not warranted.”

Morgan survived this time, but the politically correct police might not be so lenient in the future.


[1]  The full judgment can be accessed here, https://christianconcern.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/CC-Resource-Judgment-Mackereth-DWP-Others-ET-191002.pdf. All citations in the article are from this document.

[2]  Transformed (London: Evangelical Alliance, 2018), https://www.eauk.org/assets/files/downloads/Transformed.pdf.

[3]  https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/class-clips-video/rse-ks2-identity-understanding-sexual-and-gender-identities/zfqrhbk.