Hospital review board to decide fate of doctor who criticized gay “lifestyle”

Printed from:

BOSTON–A Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center disciplinary board is expected to render a decision soon on whether to reinstate medical privileges of a doctor fired for what the hospital considers anti-gay remarks, but for what the doctor’s lawyer says was a medical opinion and an expression of faith.

Dr. Paul Church, 65, a Needham urologist and Harvard Medical School faculty member, is an expert in male sexual dysfunction and prostate problems.

He had worked for the hospital for nearly 30 years before having his privileges revoked in March,  after a decade of conflict with hospital staff.

Church is a long-time opponent of the the hospital’s support for the Boston Pride parade. Beth Israel has participated in the annual parade for more than 20 years, but Church says that the promotion of the “homosexual lifestyle” by the medical community is “all together inappropriate.”

Since 2004, Church has challenged hospital administrators to talk about what he believes are the health risks associated with gay sex. According to Church, gay and bisexual men face a significantly elevated risk of sexually-transmitted disease, including HIV.

Church’s lawyer, Richard Mast of Liberty Counsel, told the Boston Business Journal in July that Church’s arguments were based on both his medical and religious views.

Beth Israel did not return repeated calls for comment.

According to MassResistance, a group that supports Church, the doctor offered to provide an “opposing viewpoint” for a 2011 hospital video promoting gay pride. In response, hospital administrators suggested that Church resign voluntarily or face suspension. The hospital then formed a peer review committee to determine whether Church’s conduct violated hospital policies.

In Nov. 2011, the committee charged Church with violating their harassment policies and told him to cease communication with hospital staff regarding his opinion on sexual orientation.

Church says he did not discuss his views with patients unless asked, which a former hospital CEO confirmed on his blog in 2007.

“Health care (professionals have) a higher calling,” Church said in a Sept. 1 interview. “It’s an awkward double standard. We counsel people about other self-destructive behaviors like smoking and alcohol but have to be silent about this because it’s socially acceptable.”

During 2013 and 2014, Church posted three comments to an online, internal hospital portal in response to the hospital’s annual involvement in the gay pride parade. The last two comments he posted were Bible quotes from Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-29, both of which condemn same-sex relations.

Hospital leaders said he violated their order to stop making such comments, and the hospital terminated Church’s privileges last March.

The hospital’s response to Church’s appeal was due at the end of August, and the board is expected to render a decision sometime this fall.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or @karabettis