One of the most effective ways to silence New Zealanders, to stop them from speaking out on issues that concern them or from raising questions they have, is to threaten their livelihood. And is what’s happening right now to Jennifer Scott, a young nurse from Dunedin who dared speak out on issues that matter to her; you may agree with her, you may not, but that’s not the point to us.
As always, we picked up the fight in the name of the principle of free speech, regardless of the substance of the issue. The Nursing Council is threatening to remove Jennifer’s license permanently (she’s already been suspended from working for almost two years!). In a nationwide nursing shortage, New Zealand can hardly afford to be deregistering nurses just because in their private lives they dare to hold opinions that are unpopular with the powers that be.
I ask you to stand with Jennifer, and the thousands of other members of the Free Speech Union we support, who have the courage to push back against the censors and refuse to give in to their bullying.
Our team is preparing material to submit to the Nursing Council to support Jennifer. We can’t do this work without your help — would you chip into helping us fight for Jennifer?
When I saw the allegations against her, I was shocked:
I am baffled. At no point was Jennifer speaking on behalf of her employer, at no point was it in the workplace, at no point did it undermine her relationship with her employer. So what on earth is the Nursing Council doing threatening to permanently suspend a nurse for statements she made in her private capacity?
Look at the last one: they think they can discipline her for comments she made to a couple in a restaurant. Sure, if she’s harassing someone, get the police involved, but going after her employment? Given how severe the Nursing Council believes this case is, I was very interested to see the Facebook posts that were so shockingly offensive. I had to share a couple with you because they certainly weren’t the egregious content I was expecting.
Jennifer is the same nurse that, when she addressed the Dunedin City Council with concerns about transgender women using the female changing rooms, the Mayor said her submission was “hard to listen to, and it was at very least distasteful, if not repugnant”.
The New Zealand Herald reported that when Aaron Hawkins (the Mayor at the time) made these remarks he was “visibly shaken”. Oh, please. I like the idea of our politicians being shaken, when those they represent have the courage to speak out and stand up for what they believe in. If only New Zealand had more Kiwis who were willing to push back against Government overreach and shake the complacency from some of our leaders.
We are willing to back Jennifer all the way. At the moment, a Professional Conduct Committee investigation is looking into whether she is fit to be reinstated as a registered nurse. It is outrageous, and I can only imagine how stressful this has been for her and her family.
Just last month, Jonathan met with the Chief Executive of the Teaching Council (a similar professional body as the Nursing Council), to argue that teachers must be able to maintain their personal perspective on issues like transgenderism and pronouns without being driven from their profession. We maintain that nurses should also have this right, and actually those who work in any field. I’m also asking you to help us with good, old-fashioned people power, by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and also email@example.com.
Sam is the Legal Advisor on this case, and Kelsey is the Case Management and Fitness to Practise Coordinator. Respectfully remind them that outside of employment, employees are free to speak their minds, even if their employer disagrees; that public employers are required under the Bill of Rights Act to respect the freedoms of conscience, belief, and speech; and that disagreement is not hate — just because Jennifer holds certain perspectives about puberty-blockers or transwomen in bathrooms, that does not make unfit to care for them as a nurse. I emphasise that doing this politely but firmly will be more effective than the old give-them-a-piece-of-mind approach.
I know that Jonathan and the team are proud to stand with Kiwis, whether we agree with them or not, who have the courage to speak their minds. A society can’t be free where we’re not allowed to express ourselves openly. With your help, we’ll remind the Nursing Council that Kiwis’ speech is free.
Ani O’Brien Council Member
Free Speech Union
P.S. This week it’s Jennifer. Last week it was a deregistered teacher. Who knows who it’ll be next week. But no matter who, we believe Kiwis’ speech should be free and that they shouldn’t face losing their jobs for speaking out. [Amen to that —Eds]