Christian Doctor, canceled for social media starts a fundraiser

Isreal Folau he is not. Not a big public profile, but Jereth Kok the Melbourne Doctor suspended for social media posts – including an Eternity article – is now seeking public support to pay his legal costs. His fundraiser is here.

After more than two years of being unable to work, Christian doctor Jereth Kok is facing a hearing* before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The Eternity article was one of 30 pieces of media cited by the Medical Board of Australia in suspending his right to practice while an investigation took place.

The allegation is that his online media commentary amounted to professional misconduct.

The Medical Board has now informed Jereth that its investigation is complete and that he will face trial in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. In a hearing likely to occur in mid to late 2022, the Medical Board will argue that Jereth’s social media posts constitute professional misconduct and that his registration as a doctor should be cancelled.

“Effectively, Jereth has already been cancelled, say his lawyers at the Human Rights Law Alliance (HRA).  He has not practised medicine for two years. His medical career is largely ruined, and he has not even had his day in Court yet or a real opportunity to defend himself.”

The Israel Folau case raised a lot of funds but did not get a court decision on the issues it raised concerning freedom of Speech. HRLA regards it as a case with wide-ranging implications for religious freedom, the powers of regulators to police personal speech through vague codes of conduct, the intrusion of cancel culture into law and the right to a fair trial.

The Eternity article the board objected to, “A medical perspective on Transgender”, formed part of a series that teased out the balance between grace and truth on that subject. It started with a piece by Tess Delbridge, a former Eternity staffer “Gender bending? Transgender not as black and white as you might think”.

“We need a lens through which we can see the feelings of others, accept those feelings as real and true for them, without releasing from our grasp the biblical authority to interpret and interrogate those same feelings,” she argued.

(In a rare editorial note I pointed out that “It does not suggest you encourage someone to be transgender or to let feelings trump the Word of God”).

Because I knew that some people might want to strike a more conservative note.

Jereth Kok wrote his response. “I agree with [Delbridge] that our engagement with the complex issue of transgenderism must be a careful, educated one; not blunt or dismissive.” He went on to make the case that “At a fundamental level, our maleness and femaleness goes all the way down to the level of our individual cells,” suggesting that accepting transgender identity is “unkind”. Eternity negotiated some cuts to that article. In turn, Justine Toh from the Centre for Public Christianity wrote a response in Eternity  A little empathy, please, on the issue of transgender.

Eternity does not endorse Kok’s online comments in general  – he told the VCAT that he was aware some of them caused offence. This case will tease out whether “offence” is too low a bar when working out what speech should be punished, and whether the extreme sanction of losing a job – as in the Folau case – is an appropriate response.

Note: In an early version of this piece, we referred to this as an “appeal”, but it will be a hearing to test whether Kok’s earlier suspension should become a permanent loss of registration.