Human dignity, the defining value of the West, grows out of the Judeo-Christian belief that the human race was created in the image of God. However, a British court has officially pronounced this truth, revealed in the opening chapter of the Bible, “incompatible with human dignity.”
The case involved Dr. David Mackereth, who worked as a disability assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). During an early evaluation meeting, a manager asked the 56-year-old Christian whether he would call a transgender person by his or her preferred pronouns, even if they do not correspond to the patient’s biological or observable sex.
Dr. Mackereth said he believes it is impossible to change genders and he would be uncomfortable using such pronouns. Specifically, he said he would not refer to “any six-foot tall, bearded man” as “madam.” The manager prodded how he would react if the patient insisted, and Mackereth said he would prefer another doctor treat the patient.
There’s a dispute about what happened next: The DWP argues that he felt under too much pressure to work and asked to go home. The doctor says he had been told, “Before you decided to go, we had already decided to send you home.” (Perhaps unsurprisingly, one branch of government chose to believe another branch and disregarded any testimony by Mackereth that contradicted the DWP’s account.)
But both sides agreed the DWP eventually ruled he could not return to his job unless he changed his vocabulary, which he declined to do.
Dr. Mackereth sued the DWP for violating the 2010 Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on religion. However, the law also includes gender identity as a protected category alongside religion. The courts treated this as a battle of one right against another, and in this case, religion lost.
The court ruling inflicted multiple harms on society. It established the State as the authority of acceptable religious doctrine. It deprived an entire class of Christians (namely, faithful ones) the right to practice their faith, a right guaranteed by explicit provisions of UK law. And it denied the vast majority of would-be DWP patients – whom the court acknowledges already suffer from the shortages intrinsic to government-run healthcare systems – of another doctor’s care.
Two of the court’s professed reasons for ruling that Mackareth’s rights had not been violated were procedural, bordering on sophistry. He had not been singled out because of his religion, they wrote, because DWP employees of any background would have to use the patient’s preferred pronouns (out of respect for the co-equal rights the law accords to gender identity). This is akin to saying a Jewish doctor would not be singled out by a law requiring all employees to work on the morning of Yom Kippur. “Further,” the court notes, Mackareth “commendably” acknowledged that DWP personnel were “courteous and professional to him at all times” while denying him the right to work because of his deeply held religious belief. Procedural courtesy covereth a multitude of sins.
Two additional grounds give those who believe in human rights reason for pause.
The State determines religious doctrine?
The court admits that “Christianity is a protected characteristic” under the Equality Act. But the judges sided with the DWP that “Mackereth goes further in seeking to define the beliefs” it holds about biological sex “as a protected characteristic” of Christianity.
The clumsy wording of the decision (which has been criticized elsewhere) leaves one wondering whether the court denies that these beliefs are central to Christianity or asserts these dogmas are not “protected” by UK law. If the former, the sets up the State as the final arbiter and enforcer of religious dogma. While the UK has some detailed history in this regard, it is a chapter the bench should wish to close.
If the latter, then the court asserts the “rights” of transgender people supersede the rights of religious believers to practice any faith that teaches a gender binary. The state threatens to deprive such people of the opportunity to support themselves and their families through gainful employment.
Most troubling, the judges criticized Dr. Mackareth’s grounds for holding his belief. They ruled that a “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.”
Genesis 1:27 states, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (KJV). Unless overturned, it is the considered legal opinion of a UK court that declaring the human race bears the image of its Creator is tantamount to a hate crime.
This comes as particularly unwelcome news to the Roman Catholic Church, which released its guidelines about gender ideology this June. The document – titled, “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender in education” – called “gender theory” a “confused concept” based on “feelings and wants,” but “opposed to anything based on the truths of existence.”
Then again, this would not be the first time a British court has disadvantaged adherents of the Catholic faith.
The Judeo-Christian creation narrative: the basis of human rights
The ruling’s rejection of the Genesis creation narrative would destroy the foundation upon which human rights theory was built. Jerry Shestack, the Carter-era human rights official and left-leaning president of the American Bar Association, wrote:
Theology presents the basis for a human rights theory stemming from a law higher than that of the state and whose source is the Supreme Being. ... When human beings are not visualized in God's image then their basic rights may well lose their metaphysical raison d’être. On the other hand, the concept of human beings created in the image of God certainly endows men and women with a worth and dignity from which the components of a comprehensive human rights system can flow logically.
The Carter Center, founded by one-term president and long-term Baptist teacher Jimmy Carter, quotes the verse in question in its “Scripturally Annotated Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The document states, “The moral status of human beings is exalted, in large part due to the declaration first made in Genesis 1 that human beings are made in the divine image.” Finally, New York University law professor Jeremy Waldron said the concept of imago Dei presents “an enrichment” of human rights thought.
The corresponding reality is that removing the divine creation narrative from human rights theory must impoverish such thought. Douglas Murray, an atheist and social issues liberal, writes in The Strange Death of Europe that the process has already begun:
In the place of religion came the ever-inflating language of “human rights” (itself a concept of Christian origin). We left unresolved the question of whether or not our acquired rights were reliant on beliefs that the continent had ceased to hold, or whether they existed of their own accord. This was, at the very least, an extremely big question to have left unresolved while vast new populations were being expected to “integrate”.
Aaron Rhodes, a longtime human rights activist, may have described today’s transvaluation of all values best in his book The Debasement of Human Rights. “The concept of human rights is now rarely informed by the ideas and principles that originally gave it meaning,” he wrote.
One could scarcely find better evidence than this court decision.
(Photo credit: Public domain.)