Across the West, Christians in the medical professions are finding it harder and harder to practice both their career and their faith. Some are even having to choose between the two.
Historically, the church has played a disproportionate role in healthcare through the centuries. After ending infanticide in the ancient world, followers of Jesus went on to invent the public hospital and pioneer many fields of modern medicine.
The connection between Christianity and care can still be seen today, not just in the many hospital names that speak to their Christian origin, but also the high proportion of Christians still choosing careers in healthcare.
So, it’s sad to see professionals being targeted by medical boards simply for holding fast to their faith convictions. It’s a growing phenomenon, and Australians are not immune.
As the crusade against Christians advances, consider ten stories from around the western world.
Dr. David Drew, UK, 2010
It was a costly email. Dr. David Drew, a skilled paediatric consultant and a clinical director at Walsall Manor Hospital, hoped to motivate six or seven colleagues well known to him in his department. So, he sent them the prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola.
Managers who didn’t even receive the email lodged a complaint against Dr. Drew. A report was prepared, detailing other occasions that Dr. Drew had spoken of his faith at work.
This included the time he wished a colleague a ‘peaceful Christmas’ by text message—described by the recipient as an ‘aggressive and unwelcome intrusion’ into his private time.
The report concluded that Dr. Drew’s language was ‘inappropriate in a professional business setting’ and that his religious beliefs should be kept to himself. He was accused of ‘gross misconduct and insubordination’ and was sacked from his job.
Dr. Drew appealed the verdict on the grounds that he’d been unfairly dismissed, but following an eight-day tribunal hearing, he lost his case.
Dr. Richard Scott, UK, 2011
A Cambridge-educated GP, Dr. Richard Scott had given years of his life in Tanzania and India as a medical missionary and surgeon. In 2011, after a lengthy consultation with a troubled patient, Dr. Scott shared with him about the comfort and strength he’d found through faith in Jesus.
Dr. Scott described the encounter as a ‘consensual discussion between two adults’. The 24 year old patient didn’t indicate that he was offended or wanted the discussion to end—indeed, he continued seeking treatment from Dr. Scott’s practice.
Nevertheless, a complaint was lodged by the patient’s mother, and Dr. Scott was placed under official investigation for ‘bringing his profession into disrepute’ by discussing Christianity.
The General Medical Council investigated the case, and in an incredible move, they accepted the patient’s evidence in secret over the phone, such that Dr. Scott’s defence team couldn’t adequately respond to it.
The trial resulted in Dr. Scott being issued with a warning that remained on his otherwise spotless record for five years.
Dr. Mark Hobart, Australia, 2013
In Dr. Mark Hobart’s home state of Victoria, abortion laws underwent radical reform in 2008. Since then, any doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion has been forced to refer patients to providers who will oblige — effectively making all doctors complicit in the abortion industry.
This law was put to the test when Dr. Hobart, a practicing Catholic, was approached by a pregnant couple in 2013. They were 19 weeks pregnant with a girl, but they were seeking an abortion because they’d hoped for a boy.
Dr. Hobart’s conscience wouldn’t allow him to refer them on to an abortionist, given both the mother and baby were healthy, and the abortion clearly would have been sex-selective.
The parents didn’t complain, but when members of the Medical Board of Victoria discovered Dr. Hobart’s decision, they conducted an ‘own motion’, making themselves both accusers and judges in Dr. Hobart’s case.
Given that the investigation could have resulted in him losing his license to practice medicine, Dr. Hobart was very fortunate to only be given a formal sanction for breaking the new law.
Victoria Wasteney, UK, 2014
In 2014, a senior occupational therapist, Victoria Wasteney, found herself being disciplined by the NHS for speaking about her Christian faith with a Muslim colleague at work.
She was found guilty of three ‘charges of misconduct’ by a disciplinary hearing. The first was for praying with the Muslim woman after she’d come to Victoria’s office, tearfully sharing about her health and home problems.
The second was for giving the woman a copy of the book I Dared to Call Him Father, about a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity. Speaking of this occasion, Victoria said, “Because we had had these conversations it did not seem abnormal. It certainly was not an attempt to convert her to Christianity, as it was put to me later.”
The third was for inviting the colleague to a sports day organised by her church, a decision that Victoria’s managers described as ‘inappropriate’.
Victoria was suspended on full pay for nine months, and had to accept a written warning that remained on her record for a year. She appealed the decision in court and lost.
Dr. Kenneth Zucker, Canada, 2015
Dr. Kenneth Zucker isn’t included in this list for any faith affiliation, but for his extremely high profile and the relevance of his case to Christian practitioners. He is a world-leading clinician and a global authority on youth with gender dysphoria, with 40 years of research and practice to his name.
Dr. Zucker isn’t strictly opposed to gender transition. But given that the majority of youth with gender dysphoria realign with their birth sex by the end of adolescence, he is guided by the belief that this is the best outcome for youth with the condition.
While he was psychologist-in-chief at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Dr. Zucker was targeted by activists who made false accusations against him, including that he called a patient a ‘hairy little vermin’.
CAMH released a public report detailing this and Dr. Zucker’s other supposed misdemeanours, without review or comment by Dr. Zucker, and they fired him.
Over 500 clinicians and researchers signed an open letter to CAMH, expressing shock at their treatment of Dr. Zucker, and defending his extraordinary contribution to the field. After three years in court, CAMH issued an apology and a payout for Dr. Zucker’s unfair dismissal.
Sandra Rojas, USA, 2015
Following a reshuffle at the Winnebago County Health Department in Illinois, Sandra Rojas, a paediatric nurse with 40 years experience, found herself tasked with providing abortion drugs and referrals.
But as a Catholic, and someone who’d built her career on caring for children, this didn’t sit right with Sandra. “I was given two choices: to violate my faith and my oath to do no harm, or to lose my job in the clinic.”
When Sandra asked to be exempt from these new requirements of her job, she was fired. This despite previously being named ‘Employee of the Month’ and ‘Employee of the Quarter’ by the department.
Soon after her dismissal, Sandra joined a group of nurses who testified on Capitol Hill, each of them having been forced by their employers to violate their conscience by taking part in abortions, under threat of losing their jobs.
Sandra’s case is currently in the Illinois state court.
Dr. Eric Walsh, USA, 2016
A physician and former city public health director, Dr. Eric Walsh had also sat on the President’s Advisory Council on HV/AIDS. In his spare time, Dr. Walsh was a lay preacher at his Seventh-Day Adventist church.
He took a job with the Georgia Department of Public Health as a district health director. But a week later, officials became aware that he’d preached mainstream Christian views on topics like evolution and human sexuality.
The director of human resources then gave department employees the assignment of listening to Dr. Walsh’s sermons. Dr. Walsh was even forced to hand over copies of his sermons to the state.
Two days later, the department left a message on Dr. Walsh’s voicemail letting him know a termination letter was in the mail.
Dr. Walsh filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia and has since won a settlement for unfair dismissal.
Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz, Norway, 2016
In 2016, Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz became the first medical professional fired for exercising her conscience rights in Norway.
Dr. Jachimowicz had over 20 years experience and was known as a doctor with exceptional integrity and skills, and able to consult with her patients in Polish, Russian, and Norwegian.
She is also a Catholic. When Dr. Jachimowicz first accepted her job, her employer knew of her conscientious objection to abortion and hired her nonetheless.
But during her time at the family practice, the Norwegian government abolished conscience protections for doctors. Following this, when Dr. Jachimowicz chose not to refer her patients for abortions or provide abortion treatments for them, she was sacked by the state-run health care system.
Feeling that her rights had been violated, Dr. Jachimowicz appealed this decision in court -— a landmark case in Norway. She won the country’s first legal victory for freedom of conscience.
Dr. David Mackereth, UK, 2018
“I’m not attacking the transgender movement. But I’m defending my right to freedom of speech and freedom of belief.” These are the famous last words of Dr. David Mackereth, who lost his job with the NHS for his religious conviction that gender is connected to biology and established at birth.
Dr. Mackereth, a Reformed Baptist, had worked as a doctor for 26 years, spending most of this in accident and emergency wards. More recently, he’d taken a job as a medical assessor for a government department.
During training for his new role, Dr. Mackereth was told that he must refer to patients by their preferred gender pronoun, otherwise it could be considered harassment, punishable by law.
When Dr. Mackereth voiced his own views, the tutor passed this information on to his employer. He was given no choice: he must abide by the department rules.
Dr. Mackereth responded that ‘in good conscience’ he couldn’t abide by the compelled speech policy. As a result, he was deemed ‘unfit to work’ and his contract was terminated.
Dr. David van Gend, Australia, 2018
I’ve personally met Dr. David van Gend. He’s warm, intelligent, and well-spoken. He’s also a Christian. Last year, Dr. van Gend found himself at the centre of controversy when retweeted two posts on Twitter.
One was by Lyle Shelton, a candidate for Australian Conservatives. It promoted a book criticising the indoctrination of children with radical gender ideology. The other was an article by Miranda Devine, also questioning the need for gender fluidity classes in schools.
Soon after, Dr. van Gend was hauled before the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) on professional misconduct charges.
Though he made the tweets in his own time on his private social media account, Dr. van Gend was accused of ‘providing information that is not medically, psychologically, nor scientifically based and not promoting public health’.
After a nervous nine month wait, and with many doctors and thousands of ordinary Australians petitioning for Dr. van Gend, AHPRA dropped the complaint without so much as an apology for all that they made him endure.
Where To From Here?
In just the space of a decade, cultural and political sands have shifted, bringing radical changes to the medical world. New laws are being written and tested out. For those who transgress them, the results are hit and miss, as we’ve seen. Some are sacked, some are scolded, some sue. Some escape the fire unscathed and yet the crusade continues.
What’s clear is that there’s no end in sight. Christians are in the cross hairs, along with anyone else who dares to abide by their conscience or speak of their convictions in the workplace.
This isn’t progress. Not so long ago, stories like these ten would only have reached us from the communist world. Now they are commonplace in western nations.
While we still have our freedoms, we need to speak up. We must resist repressive laws, we need to pray, and we owe it to those who’ve faced the fire to share their stories of injustice.
How will you make a difference?