UK doctor ousted for refusing to call bearded man in hypothetical scenario 'she': court hearing

A union flag is seen near the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain April 18, 2017.
A union flag is seen near the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain April 18, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

A Christian physician lost his job in a British government agency after he said he would refuse to call a bearded man who is six feet tall "madam," according to court proceedings.

The Telegraph reported Wednesday that Dr. David Mackereth, a disability benefits assessor in the Department of Work and Pensions, is claiming religious discrimination over his firing.

Mackereth, a Christian, says his contract was terminated after he was asked in a conversation with a line manager whether or not he would address a man who was six feet tall and had a beard by female pronouns like "she" and "Mrs."

The doctor said his refusal "to make an abstract ideological pledge" resulted in his dismissal and not because of any concern about the rights of persons who self-identify as transgender.

At a court hearing in the city of Birmingham, it was presented that Mackereth does not believe in transgender ideology and considers it “delusional."

Mackereth reportedly told the tribunal: “If you believe in gender fluidity, gender is no more than one’s own fantasy about oneself.”

The doctor got the job in May of last year but was suspended the following month, claiming he was told that it was "overwhelmingly likely" that he would lose his job unless he agreed to refer to a man as "madam" if the man so preferred.

Mackereth reportedly left his role in late June. Email correspondence shows his boss instructing him 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.”

Mackereth then replied, explaining that it violated his conscience as a Christian to do what was being asked of him. He now says he did not leave his job voluntarily but was forced out and is being targeted for discrimination on the basis of religion.

“The very fact a doctor can be pulled off the shop floor for an urgent interrogation about his beliefs on gender fluidity is both absurd and very sinister, even more so if it results in a dismissal," the doctor told the court.

“If something like that happened in a church setting — people being pulled out of a pew, questioned, and then excommunicated — that would be seen as an outrageous example of religious intolerance and bigotry.”

He continued: “Moreover, as a doctor, my responsibility is always to act in good conscience in the best interest of the patients — not to adopt various fancies, prejudices, or delusions, to avoid offence at all cost.”

The government agency contends that his faith-based views are not compatible with "human dignity" as set forth in current law, specifically the 2010 Equality Act.

“It is only recently that transgenderism has been recognised as normal and such delusional beliefs accepted at face value. What is responsible for that change is political pressure, not scientific evidence," Mackereth said.

The Christian Legal Centre is backing Mackereth.

"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," the group's chief executive, Andrea Williams, said in a Tuesday statement.

“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," she said.

“If freedom to tell the truth — in this case calling a man 'he' and a woman 'she' – is suppressed, then truth itself is suppressed.”

Mackereth's ordeal mirrors the experience of a Virginia high school teacher, Peter Vlaming, who was ousted from his job last year after refusing to use opposite sex pronouns when speaking with a trans-identifying student. Vlaming cited his faith as one of the reasons he could not comply.

“I won't use male pronouns with a female student that now identifies as a male though I did agree to use the new masculine name but avoid female pronouns,” he stated at the time.

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