Peter Saunders

UK Medical Council plans to hold secret proceedings against Christian doctor for sharing his beliefs

Peter Saunders
Peter Saunders

According to a new report from Christian Concern, the General Medical Council (GMC) has this week decided to continue disciplinary proceedings against a Christian GP, despite the fact that the patient who made the complaint has refused for two years to give evidence face to face. The BBC has also reported on the case.

Dr Richard Scott, who works at Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent, was first reported to the GMC in September 2010 for discussing his Christian faith with a patient at the end of a private consultation.

Following the complaint, Dr Scott, was threatened with an Official Warning by the GMC, which he refused to accept.

As well as deciding to continue with the proceedings, the GMC has also made the extraordinary decision that part of the case will be held in secret. The press and the public will be barred from attending, and Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, has been specifically excluded from attending the hearings to support Dr Scott.

In May last year I blogged at length on the case arguing that the GMC had overreacted in its reprimand and also reported on Dr Scott’s later hearing in September.

The complainant, an adult, was originally encouraged to bring the charge by his mother, and has persistently refused to have his evidence challenged.

Dr Scott, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, had argued that his case should be ‘struck out’ on grounds that a fair hearing could not take place with no cross-examination of the complainant face to face.

Yet the GMC has decided to persist with the case with the complainant giving evidence by phone, without any cross-examination.

You can read more detailed reaction from Dr Scott in the article from Christian Concern. He concludes:

‘I am being denied a proper hearing and unless this case is finally decided in my favour, I will be seeking further legal advice as to a Judicial review of the GMC’s handling of its Disciplinary procedures, as the amateur and unjust way this trial is being conducted is an insult to me and to every member of the medical profession.’

Essentially the GMC is arguing that Dr Scott is in breach of its controversial guidance, ‘Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice’ (2008), which it is currently trying to tighten even further to clamp down on faith discussions.

The original (2008) guidance states:

‘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.’

In other words, there is no blanket prohibition on expressing personal beliefs, as long as it is done in a way that is sensitive and appropriate.

However the new draft (see my commentary) has been revised to read as follows:

(You) ‘may talk about your own personal beliefs only if a patient asks you directly about them or if you have reason to believe the patient would welcome such a discussion (eg. The patient has a Bible or Quran with them or some outward sign or symbol of their belief)’

Now what patient walks into a consultation carrying a Bible or Qur’an, or for that matter, a copy of the Communist Manifesto, or Darwin’s Origin of Species? I have never seen it. The implication seems to be that doctors cannot rely on verbal forms of information gathering to determine what might be important to a patient but must now rely only on non-verbal cues!

And yet the guidance elsewhere gives lip-service to the importance of taking a ‘spiritual history’, which usually would include such questions as ‘where do you find support?’ or ‘Do you have faith that helps you at times like this?’ which are actually an essential component of whole-person care.

Advice published by the Medical Defence Union last year appeared to follow a more balanced line and interestingly quotes from a GMC letter written seemingly in more reasonable and conciliatory tones.

Jane O’Brien, the Assistant Director of Standards and Fitness to Practice with the GMC wrote to the Daily Telegraph in February 2009 and made the following points:

‘Nothing in the GMC’s guidance precludes doctors from praying with their patients. It says that the focus must be on the patients’ needs and wishes. Any offer to pray should follow on from a discussion which established that the patient might be receptive. It must be tactful so that the patient can decline without embarrassment because whilst some may welcome the suggestion others may regard it as inappropriate’.

This apparent shift by the GMC, which seems to have been fuelled in part by Dr Scott’s case, is consistent with the growing marginalisation of Christian professionals and the rise of militant secularism in Britain’s institutions.

Earlier this year a parliamentary enquiry, ‘Clearing the Ground’, concluded that ‘Christians in the UK face problems in living out their faith and these problems have been mostly caused and exacerbated by social, cultural and legal changes over the past decade.’

I wish Dr Scott all the very best in his endeavours.


Reprinted with permission from Dr. Saunder’s blog.

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Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve

Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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