Monday, 2 July 2012

The Daily Mail and the ‘victimisation of Christianity’

On 2 June, the Manchester Evening News reported on a case at Trafford Magistrates Court:

A high-flying businessman was hauled before the court for a tirade of religious abuse at a Muslim immigration official waiting to check his passport.

Anthony Holt, 65, had become wound up after reading an article in the Daily Mail about the ‘victimisation of Christianity’ on a flight into Manchester.

When he landed, the retired consultant refused to go through a desk where Sayima Mohammed was on duty.

He astonished witnesses by pointing at her and saying: “I don’t want to be seen by that. I don’t want to be seen by any Muslim in a position of authority. I want to be seen by someone who’s English. This is England. This is my country. I’m not into all this Islam.”

...He had been reading an article in the Mail in which the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey spoke of the ‘victimisation of Christians and Christianity’.

A couple of weeks later, the Mail published another article about the so-called 'victimisation of Christianity'.

It involves the case of Dr Richard Scott, who has been given a written warning by the General Medical Council. Scott was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, who have been prominent is bringing similar cases to the media's attention. Days before the final ruling, the GMC had told the CLC that 'premature comment...can be unhelpful'.

The Mail's reporting of the case is wholly one-sided. The paper's James Tozer writes:

A Christian doctor yesterday claimed he was a victim of religious discrimination after being disciplined for discussing his faith with a suicidal patient.

Richard Scott, 51, a former medical missionary, was reprimanded despite the 24-year-old complainant not even having to turn up to give evidence.

But the GMC Committee makes clear:

The Committee received oral testimony from you [Dr Scott] and Patient A. Patient A was permitted to give his evidence by telephone following the Committee’s earlier ruling. Patient A was supervised throughout his evidence by a GMC legal representative at the direction of the Committee. You were both subject to cross examination and were asked questions by the Committee.

It is worth reading the full verdict of the Committee as it provides a much fuller picture of what actually happened and what informed their decision.

The Mail neglects to mention crucial parts of the Committee's judgement. For example, their clear statement that:

this case did not constitute an attack on the Christian faith. GMC guidance acknowledges the role of faith issues in medical care and the right of doctors to raise such matters within the consultation provided that it is done with the patient’s consent and with sensitivity and respect for any faith they might have.


The Committee does not consider that matters of faith are irrelevant to clinical care, and accepts that there are many circumstances in which spiritual assistance is valuable

Lord Carey pops up in the Mail's article to say:

'I’m extremely saddened by this ruling. Many Christians will be asking whether they any longer have the freedom to express their faith.'

It seems clear - as with his comments on the BBC BC/AD case - that he has not made himself aware of all the evidence before issuing his ready-made comment. 

Scott was accused of telling Patient A that he was:

not going to offer him any medical help or tests or advice


you had something to offer Patient A which would cure him for good and that this was his one and only hope in recovery


if Patient A did not turn towards Jesus and hand Jesus his suffering, then Patient A would suffer for the rest of his life


his own religion could not offer him any protection and that no other religion in the world could offer Patient A what Jesus could offer him


the devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus and hand him their suffering

And Scott was:

told by Patient A that he had not come to a doctor to talk about religion and that he had come to the Practice because he was unwell and desperately needed help, or words to that effect.

The Committee ruled it was proved - or, in one case, proved in part - that these these statements had indeed been said.

Crucially, the Mail also neglects to mention that Dr Scott admitted that if Patient A's recollection was correct:

a significant departure from Good Medical Practice and supplemental guidance...would have occurred.

And, in the end, the Committee believed Patient A's recollection was correct. They explained:

Having made due allowance for the fact that Patient A gave his evidence by telephone and not in person, the Committee considers that it was able to obtain a sufficient impression of his truthfulness from the manner in which he gave his evidence and his response to questions. The Committee consider that Patient A gave credible evidence, direct answers and made all due allowances in your favour.

The Committee considered that while you sought to answer questions truthfully a number of your responses were in conflict with the evidence. Specifically, the Committee noted that it is unlikely that the very full record of the consultation which you made would have omitted mention of the treatment plan if it had been discussed – since this would have happened before the discussion about religion. The Committee regards it as unlikely that the discussion of your faith lasted only two and a half minutes as you contended, bearing in mind the breadth of material covered during your discussion. Furthermore, regrettably, at times you appeared to be evasive when answering questions.

The suggestion that Dr Scott was at times 'evasive' and some of his answers were 'in conflict with the evidence' is also absent from the Mail's version of this story.

The Committee pointed out:

Your actions were in direct conflict with the GMC’s supplementary guidance: Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice. This states in paragraph 19 that:

‘You must not impose your beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views’.

Your actions also contravened Paragraph 33 of Good Medical Practice:

‘You must not express to your patients your personal beliefs including political, religious or moral beliefs, in ways that exploit their vulnerability or that are likely to cause them distress.’

Part of the evidence for reaching their conclusion came from the media interviews Scott had done to gain support and bang the 'victimisation of Christianity' drum:

You subsequently confirmed, via National media, that you had sought to suggest your own faith had more to offer than that of the patient.

In this way you sought to impose your own beliefs on your patient.

After quoting Dr Scott, the Christian Legal Centre, Lord Carey and the Christian Medical Fellowship, the Mail publishes a two-sentence quote from a GMC spokesman right at the end of the article.

(Thanks to Press Not Sorry and Jon)


  1. A Christian doctor yesterday claimed he was a victim of religious discrimination after being disciplined for discussing his faith with a suicidal patient.

    As it happens, I had this same experience myself when suicidal in, I think, 1999. Not to the same degree, not "the devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus and hand him their suffering", but my GP did see fit to suggest Jesus Christ as the cure to my ills. Which I thought was inappropriate, partly because I didn't think a doctor should be prescribing religion, partly because I was obviously in a vulnerable state.

    I didn't complain - I had other things on my mind, you can well understand. But had I done so, my objection would, again obviously, not been about the freedom of the GP to follow or express his religion. It would have been about appropriate and inappropriate conduct when dealing professionally with other people.

    But we all know that. And I suspect the Mail does too.

  2. I also had the same experience a few years ago. My doctor, knowing that I was an atheist, started talking to me about heaven and the sanctity of my soul when treating me for severe depression. She didn't go anywhere near Dr Scott's comments but I was still quite upset, given that I was quite upset anyway - hence why I was visiting her. She did also tell me that I didn't deserve to die because I wasn't as bad a person as some of her other patients who lived in the area (I lived on a council estate that had a bit of a reputation).

    I later tried to commit suicide using medication that I had, frankly, manipulated her into prescribing, stored up, and lied about taking. From my side, it didn't help that I found this woman to be completely inappropriate, judgmental and insensitive. If I'm honest I feel that I would not have gone out of my way to deceive a more reasonable or helpful doctor, and the whole thing might not have happened. When I came out of hospital, she had a go at me and told me that she could have been struck off because of what I had done. I was later told by another doctor that she must have been either mistaken or lying about this. In any case, she was awful - my sister had to see her to get a referral for an abortion, which was clearly not a good time for her, and the doctor again decided that it was a good time to start lecturing her on religion and how abortion was morally wrong.

    We both should have reported her, but again, we were both vulnerable, and didn't want to deal with some kind of hearing on top of everything else. I am glad that this patient complained, and appalled that the Daily Mail are making it out to be some kind of petty PC-brigade rant rather than what it is - a revolting example of a doctor abusing their position during the treatment of a vulnerable man.

  3. I'm aware of a local fundi Christian GP getting arsy with patients seeking abortion. And I was personally on the end of a blood transfusion nurse making negative comments about my own faith, which led to me making a formal complaint, for all the good it did. I'm glad this particular GP got his backside kicked and I wish tabloid newspapers would actually take the side of patients on such matter, instead of pursuing their own extremely dubious agendas.

    1. I wonder which side the DM would take if it was a Moslem doctor proselytising?
      I think I know...


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