Beth-Israel rejects doctor’s appeal of firing for remarks about gays

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BOSTON – Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center officials have finalized a decision to fire a Needham doctor after he made comments to fellow staff members that hospital administrators decided were anti-gay, and disobeyed an order to keep his views to himself.

But Richard Mast of Liberty Counsel, a lawyer who represents Dr. Paul Church, a urologist and longtime Harvard Medical School faculty member, has said the comments consisted of Church’s medical and religious views.

Church, 65, who has practiced at the Boston teaching hospital for about 30 years and is an expert in male sexual dysfunction and prostate problems, was dismissed in March but appealed the decision multiple times without success. Church received notice that his final appeal had failed within the past several days. A hospital representative didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least,” Church said in an interview. He added that he has felt the impact of the controversy, with Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital choosing not to renew his staff appointment when it ended recently. Faulkner Hospital didn’t respond immediately to request for comment.

Church said he plans to continue his private practice, although long-term independent practice as a urologist is “unusual.” However, he has yet to find out whether he can be re-appointed to Beth Israel’s Needham location, which is overseen by an independent board of directors and has its own credentialing process, he said. Last month, Church successfully renewed his medical license for another two-year term.

“I’ve looked into other options elsewhere in the Boston area, but they are incomplete at this point,” Church said.

The conflict between Church and hospital administrators began in 2004, when he challenged them to address health risks associated with promiscuity and sexual practices among gay men. Church says homosexual and bisexual men face a significantly elevated chance of becoming infected by sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, a precursor to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

Church also opposed the hospital’s support for the annual Boston Pride Parade, which celebrates gay lifestyles. According to his supporters, Church offered to provide an “opposing viewpoint” for a 2011 hospital video promoting gay pride.

Instead, the hospital formed a review committee to examine his conduct. The committee subsequently asserted that Church violated the hospital’s harassment policies and told him to cease communication with staff members regarding his views related to sexual orientation.

During 2013 and 2014, Church posted three comments about the hospital’s involvement in the annual parade on an internal hospital online site. The last two statements included quotes from parts of the Bible, Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-29, both of which condemn same-sex relations. Hospital officials said that violated their order to stop commenting on sexual orientation and dismissed him from the staff.

During the appeals process, nearly 10,000 people signed a CitizenGo petition to the hospital’s directors, demanding Church’s reinstatement.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.