What would orthodox Christians do under Labour's misgendering law?

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Christian teacher Joshua Sutcliffe, who is appealing his ban by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) for 'misgendering' a pupil, would not stand a chance of getting back into the profession if Labour wins power.

Sutcliffe is taking High Court action to overturn the TRA's ruling against him last May after the Conservative government published transgender guidance for schools in December. He is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.

The government's 'draft non-statutory guidance' for England, which is subject to a public consultation until March 12, says teachers should not be forced to address children in their chosen pronouns.

Sutcliffe, who was sacked as a maths teacher in 2017 from Cherwell School, a state secondary in Oxford, for refusing to refer to a biologically female student as a boy, said: "I feel vindicated by the guidance, but this means nothing if my ban is not overturned. To continue to be barred from the profession I love in light of the draft guidance would be another of the many injustices I have had to face for expressing my Christian beliefs."

The news of Sutcliffe's legal action coincides with a report from The Telegraph that some private boarding schools are allowing trans children to sleep in dormitories according to their chosen gender.

The paper reported on January 21 that Taunton School in Somerset has an equality, diversity and inclusion policy that states that "as far as possible, transgender pupils and students should be allowed to sleep in dorms appropriate to their gender identity". Bedales School in Hampshire reportedly has a similar policy.

The paper said: "The schools' policies clash with the Government's first-ever guidance for trans pupils, which states that pupils must sleep in dorms segregated by their biological sex."

A Labour government would almost certainly scrap the guidance. National newspapers reported in October the extent of Labour's commitment to the trans agenda. Labour told journalists of its plan to make misgendering an aggravated hate crime carrying a two-year jail sentence.

Anneliese Dodds MP, the party's Women and Equalities spokeswoman, was quoted as saying: "The Conservatives are failing to protect LGBT+ people with their inability to get a handle on hate crime, including violent hate crime. Labour will strengthen the law to ensure the perpetrators of anti-LGBT+ hate can no longer dodge longer sentences."

The sweeping nature of Labour's definition of "anti-LGBT+ hate" is noteworthy here. The party clearly wants verbal transgressions against LGBT ideology to be classed as hate crimes along with physical assaults.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling said on X that she would "happily" do time under Labour's misgendering law "if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex".

Whatever form Labour's law might take, teachers like Sutcliffe would lose the legal route they can now go down due to the Conservatives' transgender guidance for schools. The teaching profession generally would be very unlikely to oppose the scrapping of the guidance under Labour, assuming it wins the 2024 General Election. The Telegraph reported in December that Britain's biggest teaching union, the National Education Union, was telling teachers that the guidance was not legally binding and was "under consultation", suggesting that it could be ignored.

What should orthodox Christians do under a Labour government where transgender activism has the full force of the law behind it? Christians would inevitably disagree on how they should respond practically, particularly in the way they believe they should address transgender individuals. Those disagreements exist already.

But non-violent civil disobedience may well become necessary under a regime that effectively criminalises the orthodox Christian belief in the God-created immutability of biological sex. Some Christians who in their discourse insist on upholding the foundational biblical truth that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ created humanity, male and female, in his image could well go to jail.

It is surely important for future generations, the Lord willing, that the historical record shows that orthodox Christians in Britain did take a stand against the evil of state-sponsored transgenderism. Would it not be unfortunate if principled feminists like JK Rowling were prepared to make the sacrifice for their convictions whilst orthodox Christians were not?

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Lancashire.