Religious discrimination: Christian doctor’s beliefs on transgender patients incompatible with human dignity

In Mackereth v DWP & Advanced Personnel Management Group (UK) Ltd (ET/1304602/2018) Dr Mackereth brought claims of harassment, and direct and indirect discrimination against his employer (the DWP) and the agency (APMG) used to recruit and onboard DWP employees. Dr Mackereth was employed as a Health and Disabilities Assessor. He is a Christian (his religion being a relevant protected characteristic for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010); he believes that God created men and women, and does not believe that they can change their sex/gender. As a result he refused to call transgendered service users by their chosen pronoun (i.e. he refused to comply with the DWP’s gender reassignment or equal opportunities policy, and failed to observe the GMC’s best practice).

That Dr Mackereth’s Christianity was protected under the Equality Act was accepted by the tribunal. However, it found that his belief that only God created men and women and therefore individuals could not choose their gender and his lack of belief in conscientious objection to transgenderism were ‘incompatible with human dignity’. This is part of the test set out in Grainger v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09:

  • The belief must be genuinely held.
  • It must be a belief and not … an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
  • It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Having found that Dr Mackereth’s beliefs were incompatible with human dignity, the harassment and discrimination claims fell away.

Published: 24 October 2019

Article Sections: Discrimination

Tags: religious discrimination, protected characteristic, Christianity, gender reassignment, transgender, human dignity

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