‘Christian’ Pediatrician Turns Away Child Because of Parent’s Tattoos

Victorian Glass House

In Bakersfield, California Dr. Gary Merrill, Pediatrician, turned away Tasha Childress and her daughter because of the way they look. Ostensibly sighting the teachings of Christ as justification of his decision.

The doctor said he is just following his beliefs, creating a Christian atmosphere for his patients.

Tasha Childress said it’s discrimination.

She said Dr. Gary Merrill wouldn’t treat her daughter for an ear infection because Tasha, the mother, has tattoos.

The writing is on the wall—literally: “This is a private office. Appearance and behavior standards apply.”

For Dr. Gary Merrill of Christian Medical Services, that means no tattoos, body piercings, and a host of other requirements—all standards Merrill has set based upon his Christian faith.

“She had to go that entire night with her ear infection with no medicine because he has his policy,” Tasha Childress said.

Merrill won’t speak on camera, but said based on his values and beliefs, he has standards that he expects in his office.

The AMA is behind Merill and so am I, sort of

He does own a private practice, which is a business, and he can refuse anyone he likes. This is the same thing as McDonald’s not serving you if you’re shirtless and shoe-less, or a certain donut shop in Joplin, Missouri that will not serve homosexuals. Refusing service is the business owner’s prerogative, and that’s fine with me.

The part that bothers me about this (and the donut shop; they have scripture on their walls) is doing this stuff in the name of Christianity.

Now, I’ll defend your right to refuse service to whomever you please, but claiming your refusal to help another human is an act of Christianity is silly absolutely insane. Christ refused help to no one. In fact, it was spiritually troubled misanthropes and outcasts that he embraced foremost. Christ even asked forgiveness for his own murderers.

So you can be self-righteous all you’d like. It’s one of the freedoms that makes this country great. But to claim that you’re refusing to help someone because you follow the teachings of Jesus Christ is like saying that you’re going to volunteer at the Jewish community center because you follow the teachings of Hitler. It just can’t be true.

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    • shinypenny

      He does own a private practice, which is a business, and he can refuse anyone he likes. This is the same thing as McDonald’s not serving you if you’re shirtless and shoe-less, or a certain donut shop in Joplin, Missouri that will not serve homosexuals. Refusing service is the business owner’s prerogative, and that’s fine with me.

      Jeebus, no, it’s not. He is licensed by the state to provide medical care and services to the population of said state. If he feels unable to provide those services based on the appearance of a patient’s parents (not even the patient, for crying out loud), he needs to turn in his license. This is equivalent to those wingnut pharmacists who deny women birth control because they have problems with the idea of women having sex. The time to think about your own personal ethical code is BEFORE you go into medicine, not when a suffering child is before you for treatment.

      Health Care != Fast Food

    • Wade

      Health care does not equal fast food. Very good. [/condescension]

      The doctor should be able to refuse service to anyone just as the woman should be allowed to get service where she pleases.

    • IanC

      I am not in any way connected to the medical profession and as far as religion goes I am an agnostic.

      If this doctor were in the public health arena rather than private practice, I would say he’d erred i.e. the State may NOT discriminate, private individuals can. He was in private practice, and he can discriminate any way he sees fit (that is his right).

      People tend to see doctors as philanthropists, they aren’t. They are in business for the money, exactly the same way as everyone else is. Did Dr. Merril make a financial error? Most certainly he did, but that’s his call and no one else’s. The doughnut shop in Missouri is an excellent example.

      The sooner people stop seeing doctors as demi-gods, and start seeing them as business-people, the better.

    • cdave

      As a Christian I am extremely offended by the reason given for Dr. Merrill’s definition of ” appearance and behavior standards”. Dr. Merrill’s logic goes against every teaching in the Christian faith. This type of behavior is what fuels much of the strife in the world today. Dr. Merrill needs to stand up and take responsability for his decision, because it is his personal decision, and not try and mask it by saying it is based on my Christian beliefs.

    • pearlie

      “First, do no harm.” (Hippocrates)
      “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” (Jesus)
      Perhaps the good doctor should hang these scriptures on his walls.

    • Boson

      So will I, and my child, be turned away with a ‘Jesus’ tattoo on my arm and a cross earring hanging from me ear? So much for the oath he took when he got his physician’s license. As a Christian myself, I am offended at this non-Christian attitude.

    • meestro

      If this guy is claiming to be some ultra conservative orthodox christian, then how would he feel if the epitome of both (Eastern/Coptic Orthodox) walked in with their typical cross tattoo on their wrist? Little does he know tattooing is common practice in the most ancient of christian cultures in order to identify the christian children. Seems as though christianity in america has completely lost touch with the very roots of its existence.

    • shatril

      Are these teachings from the same Christ that ministered to tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers? Doesn’t sound very Christ-like to me.

    • Okulus

      People dance around with live rattlesnakes citing Biblical injunctions as a demonstration of Christian faith. Perhaps this doctor might try that, too.

      Or maybe he could follow the example of Mother Teresa.

      No matter, as others have said, he is in private practice and may set his standards as he pleases. Patients will choose to see him or not, as he seems to do with his patients. The first poster is incorrect in assuming that having a license imposes an obligation to see any patient who comes in the door. It doesn’t. And the state doesn’t “give” licenses, it issues them, for a fee.

    • shinypenny

      Okulus obviously has difficulty reading. Nowere in my comment did I imply he had an obligation to provide care. I do imply that his personal moral code should not impact the care he gives his patients. And yes, the little girl was his patient, not her parents. This guy fails as a Christian, a physician, and a human being.

      Also, have you checked the definition of “to issue” lately? “The act or an instance of flowing, passing, or giving out.”

    • Okulus

      Shinypenny, you are a sensitive one! Mustn’t criticize you or what you say. Sorry I don’t subscribe to your PC coda. I didn’t know I couldn’t post here if I disagreed with you, even if I was correct. Seems you are all about the judgin’, just like our friend here, brother Doctor.

      Sorry it disappoints you so, but my comment is true. If the good doctor doesn’t like the appearance of the little girl’s mother, he really doesn’t have to provide service in his office to either of them. Their choice, if they don’t care for that form of discrimination, is to see a different doctor, perhaps one who is not so much of a “Christian.” His having a license to practice medicine does not confer on you, dear citizen, a right to demand he see anyone you choose while he works in his practice. He could, if he chose, not see patients whose family members had tattoos for no other reason than he didn’t like their particular taste in body modification. Now I wonder whether he would treat the father of a child who had a fouled anchor, globe and eagle tattoo on his arm the same way. Perhaps his edition of the King James forbids that too.

    • social moth

      Honestly, this does not strike me as all that unusual. Our nation has been experiencing an increasing number of “issues” centered around someone denying something to someone else for “religious reasons”.

      Gender-neutral marriage (aka “Gay” Marriage)
      Reproductive rights (aka abortion)
      Pharmacists denying women birth control/”the day after” pill
      “Abstinence only education”
      Creationism vs. Evolution

      More recently, there has been a ruckus raised over the new HPV vaccine, and how it will turn vaccinated girls into rampant sex fiends.

      What I don’t understand are people who criticize people of the same faith because they don’t follow the “real” interpretation of the scripture. Suicide bombers aren’t “real Muslims”. Priests who molest children aren’t “real Catholics”. Doctor Merrill isn’t a “real Christian”.

      Whose to say that they aren’t the righteous and you are the heretic?

    • Rocketman

      Hey Okulus–

      Thank god she wasn’t black as well huh?

      Do you think that Doctors have the right to refuse service to say Asians cause they don’t like them? How about Jews?

      Why not women–Hey maybe he had a bad divorce and has decided based upon his views that they aren’t welcome in his practice anymore.

      Here’s a thought–If you get into medicine to make money–you need a cranial exam. Oh sorry I forgot–in America meidical care is the equivalent of fast food.

      Market it all and let jeebus sort it out.

      Maybe what is required is for these pharmacists and doctors who start refusing service based upon theior narrow minded little messed up views to have their supply of medical supplies–from gauze to aspirin to antibiotics to insurance cut off by companies who disagree with their way of doing business?

      Me–I’d support any corporation that engaged in that action.

    • Rance

      Maybe the good doctor should take down his Bible and reread the parable of The Good Samaritan.

    • Okulus

      Hey Rocketman:

      Since I don’t know this doctor, I can’t say.

      He obviously has a thing about tattoos, though.

      You are getting to an interesting question, since the doctor is a private business, but who probably accepts government payment. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were enjoined from refusing services on the basis of race or ethnic origin or religion. Having tattoos or other body art is not a protected class, so I think he could do as he wished. But the race issue has come up in other private membership cases, probably most noteworthy in the Augusta National Golf Club membership controversy. As I understand, their discrimination was found to be within the law. But golf clubs don’t take Medicare or Medicaid money.

      But you seem to think people in general have a right to service from private businesses on any terms they choose, and that is just not the case.

      Welcome to the U.S.A.

    • Precious Marshall

      He does have the right. However, that doesn’t make it right. If he wants to do that and use a celebrity name to justify his actions I think he should leave Jesus out of it and maybe use Hitler instead.

    • Rocketman

      Hey okulus,

      Actually what I’m saying is that discriminating against someone on the basis of your personal unjustified prejudice is reprehensible.

      But I understand that your country is all about talking about equality and fairness while walking discrimination and arrogant selfishness.

      Thanks for your welcome but frankly you can keep your country man. Just keep it. I won’t be visiting again.

    • http://blacksundae.shannonhubbell.com Shannon

      Rocketman, think of it this way. If I’m a small businessman, and a Klansman or a Nazi skinhead comes into my store, I as a private citizen have the right to refuse them service. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

      But, it’s a two-way street. Some people are assholes, and that’s their right. Having that kind of freedom means sometimes encountering things that offend you. Small price to pay, I’d say.

      Anyway, does anyone have a link to the source article for this?

    • Wade
    • http://blacksundae.shannonhubbell.com Shannon

      Ah, thank you!

    • Okulus

      Godwin’s Law at under 20 replies. Nice work Precious Marshall.

    • kittenspeaks

      I must admit that from a personal stand point I am outraged at this kind of thing. It it is disgusting to me. Given the change to kick him hard in the shin while wearing pointy toes shoes I would. And then I would shove something in his ear because I do believe in a certain sense of biblical justice.

      From a consumer/ business standpoint he was within his rights. He doesn’t work for a state hospital or anything else that is publicly held. He has a private business so he can do with it what he likes.

      From a spiritual standpoint I think he is completely abusing the Christian faith. Jesus would have treated the child.

      From an ethical standpoint I think the state should pull his medical license for direct violations of the Hippocratic Oath. Especially where it says:
      Never to do deliberate harm to anyone for anyone else’s interest.
      To keep the good of the patient as the highest priority.

    • http://www.shaeman.com shaeman

      As a pastor (with 14 tattoos) I will say this is the kind of stuff that just gives us what we deserve in the public arena. I never did get it where followers of Jesus got the idea that we were to be the moral police for the rest of the world…when he called us to be the very ones to bless the world, not nag them to death.

    • http://able-mart.com Able Mart

      Actually, this is a trend among doctors and the AMA backs them up. The AMA code of ethics states that doctors are “free to choose whom to serve…” I guess the next thing will be no sick people allowed.

    • tia77

      No matter if the Dr is right or wrong you might ask yourself if this was your child would you scarifice your pride cover your tatoos and get her helped or go there displaying everything and making a huge fight about it to get on the evening news. Honestly does it appear that the mother cared any more about the child than the Dr and it was her child. It appears she was more interested in her 15 minutes. Sort of like the guy who used his 6yr old to try to get God taken out of the pledge.

    • frell69

      It is beyond me how any “Christian” person could deny medical attention to a child for any reason. As far as tattoos go, more people than you might expect have tattoos. I wonder just how many of this Doctor’s clients, or staff for that matter, have tattoos? I’d be willing to bet a lot of them but he turned this woman and her child away because he could actually see it(them).

      My advice for this doctor is, if your going to deny treatment because of tattoos, then you need to strip search everybody that comes in so you don’t leave anybody out.

      If he truly denied everybody that had a tattoo, then he’d go out of business.

      Just my two cents.

    • slsasurg

      I am a doctor, but I’m not a Christian. I was raised in a very religious home and found the exclusion of other religions–the necessity of telling everyone else that their religion was wrong and trying to convert them to Christianity–impossible to swallow. So I quit.

      In my opinion, this physician is trying to make a statement in support of what he sees as the moral viewpoint of the kind of practice he wishes to have for all his patients: free of tattoos, piercings, (and I would suggest but of course have no way of substantiating this) cussing, beating, sexual humor, blah, blah, blah. In short, he wants his Pediatric office to be free of things that might be offensive to children and their parents. However, rather than phrasing that in a way that leaves religion out of the picture, he has chosen to try to frame his argument in a way that “justifies” his version of what is “good clean family fun” by centering it around Christianity. I don’t think it is wrong to try to protect children from seeing things which might be shocking or to continue to maintain the Victorian tradition of childhood as a relatively innocent period. But I do I think that it was in very poor taste to justify his reasons based on his religion.

      However, as a physician, I think that it is repugnant and reprehensible to turn away a patient (short of threats to yourself or your family or something like that). I am a surgeon and would not turn away operating on a patient because they had HIV or Hepatitis or some other transmissible disease–I just double glove and warn the other people in the OR, who also take additional precautions. When I see patients in the Trauma Bay who have been in car accidents because they are drunk and/or high, I don’t say, “sorry, I know you are bleeding to death because your leg is hanging on by a thread, but I don’t believe in drunk driving so I am not going to treat you.” I went into medicine to heal people. That means all people. Period.

      And as an aside, what are you guys arguing about with the licensing crap? You pay several hundred dollars to each state where you want to have a license; you jump through a lot of hoops and red tape and send all kinds of documentation; then the state sends you a license. Then you repeat the process, or not, every few years, depending on the state. That’s how it works–believe me, there is no “giving” involved.

    • odin

      the doctor had the right to refuse to give his services, regardless of his reasons. he is only obliged in cases of emergencies.

      giving tatoos being against his religious beliefs is pretty lame. most probably it is not the real reason behind his refusal. let’s just say he did not like his clients. blaming it on tatoos is just one way of saying it.

    • http://www.medicalspamd.com Medical Spa MD

      He can refuse. But you never want to argue with someone who holds the mic.

    • Das Gewissen

      Meine Güte, das kann ja keine Sau lesen oder verstehen. Muss man unbedingt jede Sprache sprechen? Das ist Kauderwelsch und kein Deutsch.

    • http://www.thearticlewriter.com/blog Matt Keegan

      Jesus healed leapers (among others) and I am sure their “appearance” wouldn’t have matched up with what this or some other medical practitioners would consider to be acceptable.

      I am saddened with Christians miss out on the call of God — loving the Lord God with all of their heart, soul and mind and loving their neighbor as themselves.

    • mrsorange

      Some of the comments posted are as rediculous as the point they are trying to prove by putting down the doctor. We live in the 21st Century and not in a 3rd world country. There are doctors and clinics in almost every corner. Some people are makiing it sound as if the child was in a life threatning situation. I’m a mother and if my child is seriously ill I would go to another doctor or to an urgent care center. So if I had to criticize someone it would be the parent of the child for permitting the child to spend a night in pain. I think the anti-Christian attitute is as lame and rediculous as the criticisms posted against the doctor. People get a grip!! The comments posted have absolutely no validity other than to put down someone that stands for his beliefs and values. Maybe the criticisms come from the absence of these beleifs and values in yourselves and this is why you cannot understand. I do understand the doctor and this is why I live in this great country to have the freedom to stand for my beliefs and values.

    • misty

      im mad at trey!! he is sooooooooo mean to me but i love him

    • misty

      i love u trey

    • KM

      The reasoning behind this doctor’s refusal to give care to the child is postively absurd–and is a black mark against the entire Christian community. I agree with the author when he points out that Jesus never refused to help anyone. In fact, He often sought out the ones that everyone else avoided. While, as a private physician, Dr. Merrill has every right to regulate who he gives care to, he should not claim his religion as a means to refuse to give anyone medical care.

    • SpeakForYourself

      I wish Hell really did exist so this doctor could burn in it.

      No offense.

    • fizzy

      “Refusing service is the business owner’s prerogative, and that’s fine with me.”

      So you are saying it is okay to exclude minorities and add more fuel to peoples hatred, just because someone’s religious beliefs say it’s okay? Imagine if they said ‘no blacks’ [for example], because they got robbed by black people, does that make it just?

    • Paul Best

      Right, I am going to go to my bible and count up the number of times Jesus refused to heal someone because they did not look holy enough.

    • Jason

      How about getting over it and finding another doctor?

    • David

      The Doctor should have helped. http://www.youtube.com/user/forhishonorandglory