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Timeline of events: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reacts with hostility and intimidation to Dr. Church’s concerns.
Physician expelled from staff for simply telling the truth to his colleagues about unhealthy lifestyle.
POSTED: June 21, 2015
Over the past decade, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has become increasingly aggressive in promoting the homosexual and transgender agenda. Each year they have sent emails encouraging staff to participate in Boston’s annual “Gay Pride Week” activities. They post articles about hospital-related LGBT issues on their employee web areas. They have also held lavish hospital-wide “LGBT awards ceremonies” and similar events.
Here is an example of a “Gay Pride Week” email sent to all staff by the hospital president:
To: BIDMC Community
I hope you will join me for BIDMC’s 16th annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Achievement Award ceremony on Monday, June 8, from 12 to 1 p.m., in the Leventhal Conference Room, Second Floor, Shapiro Clinical Center.
One of our most deeply held core values and cherished traditions is BIDMC's commitment to inclusion and respect. From June 8 to 13, BIDMC will celebrate the 16th annual PRIDE week, recognizing service to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities as an employer and a care provider.
This year’s LGBT Award honorees are U.S. Representative Barney Frank and Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons for their outstanding contributions towards advancing LGBT issues. Congressman Frank will also serve as keynote speaker. All staff are welcome.
What every doctor should do: Tell the truth
Upon receiving these LGBT-related communications Dr. Church began responding to top hospital officials and members of the Board of Trustees with his concerns. Here is an example of what he sent to the hospital CEO:
The evidence is irrefutable that behaviors common within the homosexual community are unhealthy and high risk for a host of serious medical consequences, including STD's, HIV and AIDS, anal cancer, hepatitis, parasitic intestinal infections, and psychiatric disorders. Life expectancy is significantly decreased as a result of HIV/AIDS, complications from the other health problems, and suicide. This alone should make it reprehensible to the medical community, who has an obligation to promote and model healthy behaviors and lifestyles.
It is all together inappropriate for BIDMC to endorse, affirm, or encourage the behaviors “celebrated” by Gay Pride Week. Sexual orientation has absolutely no direct bearing on work qualifications, and therefore does not require endorsement in the workplace. This action again jeopardizes the credibility of BIDMC as a healthcare institution and dishonors a large proportion of its community who continue to hold to the conviction that homosexuality is unnatural and immoral. . . .
Instead, you have allowed the homosexual activists to expand their peculiar activities on campus and promoted these perversions in an institution-wide email message. It is time to put our mission as a healthcare institution ahead of misguided zeal for political correctness and inclusiveness. After all, inclusiveness of the wrong values and behaviors only serves to dishonor and discredit BIDMC and the larger community it represents.
After his direct communications were ignored, he would also occasionally post comments on the hospital’s internal Internet system.
Rather than address his concerns, hospital officials often reacted in a hostile and even threatening manner. This is the frightening state of the much of the medical profession in America today. On March 30, 2015, Dr. Church was notified that he is being expelled from the staff of BIDMC because of his comments on homosexuality.
Below is a timeline of the incidents that led to this:
2004-2007: Dr. Church and others complain to hospital president & Board via email
Each spring from 2004-2007 after receiving the annual “Gay Pride Week” emails, Dr. Church and an unnamed committee of colleagues petitioned hospital president Paul Levy and members of the Board of Trustees via email to reconsider the institutional promotions and support of LGBT activities because of morality concerns and the obvious conflict of interest with the fundamental healthcare mission. Their emails were met with innuendos of “discrimination.”
2007: Hospital president posts Dr. Church’s complaint on blog, provoking ridicule
In 2007 Levy re-printed excerpts from the email he received that year from Dr. Church and his colleagues on his personal blog. Although did not include the names of Dr. Church or the authors, it attracted an enormous amount of vilification from his liberal readers attacking the group's worldview, medical credentials, and morality (“e.g., these “ignorant and hateful beliefs”; these “bigots” must be punished; etc.). Levy largely agreed with them in his answers to their comments. Levy wrote that ignoring these doctors and continuing to support the LGBT activities is “an easy decision to make.”
However, in response to one of the comments, Levy was forced to concede:
[Dr. Church emphasized that] his personal beliefs are not transmitted to patients and do not affect his treatment of patients who come to see him. I felt I should respect his statement, and, indeed, we have received no complaints that would indicate otherwise.
Nevertheless, this led to a long angry post about it in another blog run by a lesbian healthcare worker connected to the hospital. Among other things, she ranted about how “this ignorant doctor” needed “proper training” (i.e., indoctrination) on LGBT issues. This kind of thinking has unfortunately become widespread.
2009: Hospital demands Dr. Church apologize to gay activists for email comment
In the spring of 2009, Dr. Church again responded to an email inviting him to participate in “Gay Pride” week. The email was sent from hospital president Paul Levy and two employee LGBT organizers. Dr. Church replied to all three in his response. He referenced the medical issues and the inappropriateness of the hospital being involved with this activity.
Dr. Church was called before his department head and told that including the two activists in his reply constituted harassment, misconduct, and violations of hospital policies regarding the use of the “electronic information system.” Threats of disciplinary action were leveled against him. He was ordered to write a letter of apology to the two LGBT organizers, which he did – though in the form of a clarification that his position was about policy and not personally against them.
May 2011: Dr. Church offers to be included in hospital’s LGBT video - giving opposing view
In May 2011, he responded to a hospital-wide email inviting the staff to an upcoming BIDMC “LGBT Achievement Award Ceremony.” The email had described an upcoming BIDMC video titled “Making it Better” (modeled on the homosexual video “It Gets Better” by the vicious and profane activist Dan Savage) to be shot two weeks before the ceremony.
He responded in an email to the organizers:
I am responding to the solicitation in the announcement from [the CEO of BIDMC] via email to the medical staff: "The video, which will be shot Monday, May 23, will be shown at the June 7 LGBT Achievement Award Ceremony. To appear in the video, or for more information, contact [the organizer]" I would be delighted to offer a view from the "other side" and expound on the significant health risks posed by homosexuality and its high risk behaviors....seems especially appropriate for a healthcare institution.
He did not receive a reply.
June 2011: Dr. Church writes letter to BIDMC interim president
On June 3, 2011, Dr. Church wrote a letter to Eric Buehrens, who had been appointed interim president of the hospital after the resignation of Paul Levy (after his workplace affair with a subordinate was exposed by the Boston Globe). Buehrens had written an email to all BIDMC staff inviting them to march in the upcoming Boston Gay Pride Parade.
In the letter Dr. Church outlined the documented medical consequences of homosexual behavior and reasons why it should not be encouraged or promoted by the hospital. He did not receive a reply.
July 2011: Response to video brings charge of “harassment” - and invitation to resign
On July 14, Dr. Church was summoned to a meeting at the office of his department head, Dr. Eliot Chaikof, BIDMC Chief of Surgery, to discuss official “complaints” against him. Also attending were several other high-level hospital staff members.
At the meeting, Dr. Church was told that he was being investigated on “harassment” charges because of his email offering to appear in the hospital’s LGBT video, which they described as “humiliating.”
Dr. Church was told that he had “crossed a line” and that as a result of this investigation he could face suspension or complete revocation of his staff privileges at BIDMC. As an alternative, they told him he could resign voluntarily. But Dr. Church refused. He insisted that he had done nothing wrong or unprofessional.
Dr. Church then contacted the pro-family legal group Liberty Counsel, which began working with him and agreed to legally represent him if necessary.
July 29 2011: Dr. Church sends letter to department head
On July 29, Dr. Church sent a letter to Dr. Chaikof as a follow-up to the July 14 meeting. The meeting had taken him by surprise, he said, and he wanted to present a more specific defense of his position. In the letter he included a more detailed, footnoted documentation of the risks to public health that homosexual behavior poses. He also reiterated that he had done nothing wrong and that the actions being taken against him are completely unwarranted. He did not receive a reply.
August 2011: “Peer Review Committee” assembled to review Dr. Church’s "conduct"
On August 22, Dr. Church received a certified letter from his department head, Dr. Chaikof, stating that an “Ad Hoc Focused Peer Review Committee” was being called together to meet to make a decision about him. The letter said that:
The Committee will meet to assess your professional performance as a member of the medical staff. Specifically, the Committee will be asked to review incidents involving conduct and communications believed to be in violation of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center policies and Medical Staff Bylaws.
Chaikof said that he would be chairman, and that he had appointed four academic physicians as committee members. A hospital attorney would also be present. The committee was to meet by itself on August 30, then have another meeting with Dr. Church present.
September 2011: Dr. Church meets with “Peer Review Committee”
In September, the Committee met a second time. Dr. Church attended and presented a personal statement outlining his position. He described the considerable medical and psychological dangers and consequences of homosexual behavior, the moral and religious issues involved, and the inappropriateness of a major hospital promoting these behaviors and their LGBT social agenda.
He ended his statement by stressing his care of patients:
I close my remarks by reminding the committee that this “investigation” is not about patient care or my clinical interactions with patients or colleagues. I have had a multitude of patients over the years who would identify themselves as gay, lesbian, and even transgender. My interactions with them have always been nonjudgmental, compassionate, and professional. This investigation is also not about whether you agree with my worldview or convictions. What it is about is a fundamental freedom of expression of dissenting ideologies and even more than that, it is about an illogical, inappropriate policy decision on the part of the medical institution that flies in the face of our greater mission of promoting healthy behaviors and lifestyles.
He then answered perfunctory questions from the committee. But it was clear that they were not taking his remarks seriously. One member suggested that the arguments he offered were just a “smoke screen.” Dr. Church answered by saying that political correctness was overriding health risks and no one seems to care.
September 30, 2011: Dr. Church follows up with another letter to department head (who served as committee chairman)
On Sept. 30, Dr. Church again sent a letter to Dr. Chaikof, the committee chairman (who is also his department head), to follow up. He told Dr. Chaikof:
I appreciate the opportunity to have met directly with the ad hoc committee to explain and defend my opposition to the activities surrounding "Gay Pride Week" on campus. I am pleased to have brought this matter to the attention of respected colleagues in medicine and academics, because before this I had only dealt with non-physician administrators who seemed more intent upon promoting a socio-cultural agenda than considering the scientific and medical facts that make homosexual behaviors high risk for a variety of diseases and serious health consequences.
. . . After all, our primary mission is the promotion of healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices, and to combat risks to public health, not endorse them. Truly caring for the well-being of individuals requires telling them the truth about their choices. The hospital does this on less controversial issues, such as smoking and diet. If it cannot tell the truth about sexual choices, then it should at least remain neutral on them.
Again, Dr. Chaikof did not respond.
November 2011: Committee issues formal “Letter of Reprimand” against Dr. Church
Apparently nothing that Dr. Church brought up with the "Peer Review Committee" of BIDMC physicians made much difference.
On Nov. 7, 2011, Dr. Church received a certified letter from Chaikof. It was an official “Letter of Reprimand” He was not being fired – yet. But the letter stated that he had violated the BIDMC policy against “harassment and discrimination in the workplace” as well as sending “inappropriate content” through the email system. It went on to say that “your opposition to diversity training and to BIDMC’s support for the annual Gay Pride Week events has been expressed in offensive terms and, at times, in a discourteous manner.”
The letter also said that he was being reported to the Board of Registration in Medicine, and further discipline and revocation of staff privileges would follow unless would abide by certain conditions, including:
There shall be no communications, verbal or written, sent to or made available to, BIDMC employees, medical staff, or other work force members, patients or visitors concerning your opinion about sexual orientation, homosexuality or other protected status.
In other words, the hospital was issuing a “gag order,” telling him that he was not free to bring up documented medical facts, discuss the morality of promoting dangerous behaviors, or voice opinions on policy that are widely held by the general population. If he does, he will be guilty of “discrimination” and “harassment.”
In the letter, he was also ordered to submit to any diversity training that the Chief of the Department of Surgery (Dr. Chaikof) deemed necessary. It was all quite Orwellian.
NOTE: The two BIDMC policies that Dr. Church is accused of violating are:
These policies are not particularly specific, to say the least.
April 2012: Dr. Church asks hospital not to not to send him “gay pride” emails
If he was to be silenced from speaking out, he at least did not want to be harassed with LGBT emails from the hospital.
In April, 2012, Dr. Church requested that the BIDMC Corporate Communications Department remove him from the mailing list for LGBT promotions:
I want to respectfully request NOT to receive email solicitations or notices from the organizers of "Gay Pride" activities this Spring. These messages are offensive to my religious and moral convictions, not to mention my professional opposition from the standpoint of unhealthy behaviors. The administration has "disciplined" me for expressing my views when I have responded to these unsolicited emails in the past, and I would like to avoid any future confrontations. Kindly direct my request to the appropriate person(s).
BIDMC did not honor his request. Within days, Dr. Church received the hospital’s LGBT promotional emails for the upcoming “Gay Pride” events and other in-house LGBT posts. and has continued to receive them every year.
2013-2014: Dr. Church posts three more comments – violates “gag order”
In 2013 and 2014, Dr. Church received more “Gay Pride Week” promotions and a number of fairly offensive “news” items describing the hospital’s heavy involvement in various LGBT activities – despite his request not to receive them.
In June 2013 he decided to post a response:
Then a year later, he posted two more:
Dr. Church’s “gag order” against any opposing views on homosexual behavior had been violated. So that got things started again against Dr. Church. Interestingly, the administration waited a year after the 2013 posting to act. Apparently it was the 2014 postings of Bible verses that incited them again.
September 2014: New committee assembled to investigate Dr. Church
In September 2014, Dr. Church was notified that Dr. Chaikof had requested that the hospital's Medical Executive Committee — the highest body at BIDMC — begin “a disciplinary action in regards to your professional conduct.” As the first step, an "Ad Hoc Investigating Committee" had been called together to investigate the complaint against him. As the letter described:
Specifically, the complaint describes conduct that violates (1) the conditions set forth in the Letter of Reprimand, dated November 7, 2011, and (ii) policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation.
The activities or conduct that constitute the grounds for these alleged violations include the posting of messages on the BIDMC Portal in response to June 2013 and June 2014 news stories about staff members receiving LGBT Achievement Awards and about BIDMC's participation in the Boston Pride Parade.
In other words, medical facts and Bible verses are now considered a form of discrimination and offensive hate speech by BIDMC. But sending the hospital’s homosexual-related material to Dr. Church against his wishes is not considered harassment on the basis of religion, in the eyes of his accusers.
Dr. Church was told he could meet with the investigating committee on Oct. 7 if he wished, but he could not bring legal counsel with him (although the hospital legal counsel would be present).
October 2014: Dr. Church addresses Investigating Committee
The committee was made up of six hospital staff members, five of whom were MDs.
At the meeting, Dr. Church reiterated in detail the medical facts and other concerns that he had brought up many times before. He questioned how any of that could possibly be construed as harassment, discrimination, or unprofessional conduct – especially when discussed among colleagues and medical staff, not members of the public. He argued that free discussion within the hospital on these critical medical and moral issues is extremely important.
October 2014 - January 2015: Colleagues submit letters supporting Dr. Church!
After the meeting, several prominent colleagues of Dr. Church wrote letters to the president of BIDMC, Dr. Kevin Tabb, on behalf of Dr. Church. They included two fellow physicians at BIDMC, a professor of business ethics, the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and prominent pro-family groups (including MassResistance).
Among other things, the physicians were passionate about Dr. Church’s character and qualifications, and stressed the necessity not to stifle a free exchange of ideas and discussion on controversial medical and moral issues.
February 18, 2015: Dr. Church appears before full Medical Executive Committee
On January 12, 2015, Dr. Church was notified that the Investigative Committee had completed its work, and he was invited to appear before the full Medical Executive Committee. He was told that at the meeting he could make a statement and committee members may ask questions.
The Medical Executive Committee consisted of the BIDMC president, Dr. Kevin Tabb, and 25 members, including physicians, administrators, and appointees. (One of the members, a hospital vice-president, is an outspoken member of the Boston "gay" community.) See the list of members here.
On February 18, 2015, Dr. Church appeared before the committee. At the meeting he read a two-page statement defending his statements, his actions, and his professionalism. Read his statement here. He also gave the committee a letter written by his Liberty Counsel attorneys and some disturbing photos from recent "Gay Pride Week" events.
The committee asked Dr. Church a few questions, but they were not of much substance – for example: "Do you know that what you can say in public may not be acceptable in the institution?" It seemed clear to Dr. Church that they had already made up their minds.
March 30, 2015: BIDMC president informs Dr. Church he is being expelled from staff.
On March 30, 2015, Dr. Church received a letter from the president of BIDMC, Dr. Kevin Tabb, informing him that the committee voted to expel him from the staff of BIDMC.
The letter stated:
The basis for this recommendation includes your violation of the terms of a Letter of Reprimand dated November 7, 2011, including subsequent statements by you using BIDMC’s electronic information systems to communicate your unsolicited views about homosexuality that were offensive to BIDMC staff, including statements on June 13, 2013, and June 13, 2014 and June 19, 2014.
The letter went on to say Dr. Church’s actions violated the hospital’s Information Systems Department Data Security Policy (i.e., sending inappropriate content through the email system) and the Discrimination and Harassment Policy. (See wording of these policies above.) The letter added that this constitutes an “unacceptable departure from professional standards.”
July 2015: Appeal hearing scheduled
According to BIDMC’s bylaws, Dr. Church can request an appeal hearing, which he has done. The hospital has scheduled the hearing for July 29-30, 2015. We will have more information on this as we get it.
This time, Dr. Church can have legal counsel accompany him in the meeting. The national pro-family legal group Liberty Counsel is continuing to work with Dr. Church on this, along with two Massachusetts-based attorneys. However, according to the hospital by-laws this not a “legal” process per se, but completely run by hospital rules. Given how the hospital has handled this so far and the attitude of the BIDMC officials, the odds of a successful appeal are not promising.
Moreover, it’s hard to say how Massachusetts’ laws could help him in this situation, especially given the hostility of the courts in this state on this issue.
It may well come down to an outpouring of public opinion. This is outrageous. A respected physician – particularly one on the staff of Harvard Medical School and a major hospital – should not have his career essentially ended because he’s simply telling the truth.