The current transgender environment presents Christians with many challenges as they seek to respond with an appropriate balance of care for vulnerable individuals, clarity over terms, and exposure of unhelpful, underlying ideologies.
In a highly significant legal ruling issued on 2 October 2019, belief in Genesis 1:27 ('God created man in his own image…male and female he created them.') was ruled as 'incompatible with human dignity' and in 'conflict with the fundamental rights of others; specifically here, transgender individuals'. (1)
The case concerns Dr David Mackereth, a Christian, who after many years working in A&E, had been appointed as a Health and Disabilities Assessor. During initial training, he became aware he would be expected to refer to transgender patients by their preferred pronouns (eg 'she' for a male to female). He stated that he could not do this in good conscience as a Christian, although he would be happy to use their chosen names.
After further discussions, an impasse was reached and Dr Mackereth's employment was ended. He went to tribunal, where the panel ruled against him, resulting in the above comments about the biblical foundations of his conscientious objection.
This is a delicate case. The current judgment is not binding beyond its immediate context, but decisions around an appeal are currently pending. Should an appeal confirm the findings of the original panel, this would be of wider relevance to future cases.
The details are also very relevant and have been lost in some of the media coverage. In the judgment, 'belief in Genesis 1:27' refers to a specific contextual application of the verse, rather than the verse itself. Furthermore, the original legal arguments that the panel considered use particularly polarising language, describing transgender patients as 'impersonating the opposite sex'.
Christians draw different lines on their willingness to adapt their language to the deeply held beliefs of a vulnerable patient group. There seems little moral difference between using a name that is clearly for their chosen gender identity and using the pronoun that goes with the name. But these are difficult issues.
CMF is engaging with Dr Mackereth's legal team as they decide on their appeal options. Much discernment is needed to tread a path between caring for individuals whilst challenging the wave of ideology that is not only ripping up cultural and biblical norms, but also harming these same vulnerable people.
Review by Mark Pickering, CMF Chief Executive