A Christian doctor who refused to call transgender women ‘she’ was sacked after saying he would not refer to ‘any 6ft tall bearded man’ as ‘madam’, a tribunal has heard.
Dr David Mackereth claims the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) discriminated against his religious beliefs by suspending him from his post as a disability claim assessor after he said he would not use pronouns relating to people's ‘chosen’ sex.
The 56-year-old has taken the DWP to an employment tribunal after allegedly being suspended from his post following a conversation with a manager at Birmingham's Fiveways assessment centre in June 2018.
In a statement admitted into evidence at the start of the tribunal, Dr Mackereth said: ‘In truth, the argument between us arose not because of any realistic concerns over the rights and sensitivities of transgender individuals, but because of my refusal to make an abstract ideological pledge to call any six-feet tall bearded man 'madam' on his whim.
‘Throughout this process I kept stressing that my objection to that misuse of pronouns was based on my Christian beliefs and conscience.’
In his statement to the Birmingham tribunal, Dr Mackereth quoted from the Bible, which he described as the ‘infallible, inerrant word of God’.
The claimant, from Dudley, West Midlands, said maleness and femaleness are ‘unchangeable and fundamental to who we are as people who were created in the image of God’.
Claiming ‘transgenderism’ being regarded as ‘normal’ was the result of political pressure, Dr Mackereth added: ‘I cannot in good conscience go along with those ideas - for example by using people's chosen pronouns, instead of those naturally pertaining to their sex.
‘As far as I am concerned, to do so would be both dishonest and irresponsible.’
Dr Mackereth, whose world view is ‘unashamedly’ Christian, replied to an advert for the job in May 2018 and was interviewed by recruitment firm manager James Owen.
Having obtained the post, the experienced emergency department doctor was sent on a two-week training course in Marylebone, London.
Dr Mackereth said documents he was provided with before the course did not indicate he may be required to use pronouns ‘in accordance with arbitrary choices rather than in accordance with English grammar and common sense’.
Giving his account of a meeting with Mr Owen on June 13 2018 at the Birmingham assessment centre, Dr Mackereth said: ‘I was engaged in working on my second real case when Mr Owen called me out of my work.
‘The purpose was to interrogate me about my beliefs in relation to the use of pronouns.
‘To the best of my recollection, in fact there was no mention of the word transgender during our meeting. We talked about the DWP's more general policy of using whatever pronoun the client wants.
‘That discussion culminated in Mr Owen asking me the following question - 'Let's just summarise this. If you have a man six feet tall with a beard, who says he wants to be addressed as 'she' and 'Mrs' - would you do that?'
‘I am quite sure this is exactly what he said to me, in substance if not verbatim.
‘I told him that, as a Christian, I would not be able to accede to such a request in good conscience.’
Dr Mackereth claims Mr Owen then made it clear that unless he agreed to use such pronouns he was overwhelmingly likely to lose his job, although the final decision was for the DWP.
The doctor claims no effort was made to accommodate his beliefs, such as referring transgender clients to another assessor.
At the conclusion of his opening statement to the tribunal panel, Dr Mackereth said: ‘What I object to is being forced to do violence to language and common sense, in a ritual denial of an obvious truth, for the sake of an ideology which I disbelieve and detest.
‘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.’
The DWP denies Dr Mackereth's beliefs are ‘protected’ under the Equality Act, while a recruitment agency which appointed him to his post argues his views conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
The DWP contends that what the doctor was proposing to do was ‘unwanted conduct’ towards those undergoing gender reassignment, and could have constituted harassment under equality law.
Dr Mackereth, who was trained to assess eligibility for Employment Support Allowance or the capability element of Universal Credit, said there was no deliberate desire on his part to offend people.
In his evidence from the witness box, the doctor was asked if refusing to use claimants' preferred titles would undermine their dignity.
‘I believe that we are made in God's image - male and female,’ he told the three-member tribunal panel.
‘I do not believe that it would undermine somebody's dignity.’
Explaining his views, Dr Mackereth added: ‘I don't believe a person can change their gender. It's not scientifically or medically possible. We have a problem here of two world views that struggle to accept each other.’
Robert Moretto, representing the DWP, asked Dr Mackereth about the General Medical Council code of conduct, which states you must be ‘polite and considerate’ to those being assessed, and not express personal beliefs to patients which may cause distress.
Dr Mackereth said of the regulations: ‘It doesn't stop me from saying: 'I am sorry, I am Christian, there are some things I can't do.'
‘I can't be forced to do something that goes against my conscience. What I am saying about pronouns is not going to affect the quality of the assessment that I do.
‘I don't object to doing assessments on transgender people.’
Mr Moretto put it to the doctor that refusing to address people under their presenting sex would amount to harassment under equality laws by having the effect of violating their dignity.
Dr Mackereth answered: ‘I don't agree.
‘We do love transgender people,’ he added. ‘That's our duty as Christians. But to love people doesn't mean we can accept every ideology that comes our way.’
The hearing continues on Thursday.