By Hilary White
LONDON, March 10, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The case of the Christian civil registrar being forced by her employers to perform homosexual civil partnership ceremonies does not raise issues of “general public importance,” according to the Supreme Court. The court rejected Lillian Ladele’s request for an appeal and Ladele is now considering taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Ladele, an evangelical Christian, had worked for 16 years as a registrar for the Islington council. In 2005 the Labour government made it possible for homosexuals to register their relationships as civil partnerships, with many of the same rights and privileges as natural marriage. Ladele at first rearranged her schedule to accommodate homosexuals with other registrars, but was threatened with sacking by the council after a complaint was made of “homophobia.”
She resigned and took her former employers to the London Employment Tribunal with a complaint of harassment and won. That decision was later overturned, in December, 2008, when the council appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
A court document released on Thursday states, “The court ordered that permission to appeal be refused because the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time, bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.”
Ladele, speaking through her lawyer, said she is “naturally disappointed” and is considering the European Court of Human Rights option.
She said, “When the rights of different groups clash, as they have in my case, surely there must be a proportionate attempt to balance those competing rights. In my case, one set of rights was trampled by another set of rights. That cannot be right in a free and democratic society. I believe my case raises important issues of liberty that deserve further consideration by the courts.”
Anti-Christian activists, however, were elated. Andrew Copson, head of the British Humanist Association, a group that lobbies government to reduce the presence of Christianity in public life, issued a media release saying the court’s decision is “extremely welcome.”
“A clear message has been sent out that those people providing public services or performing public functions, such as Civil Partnership ceremonies, have a duty to treat services users equally, with dignity and respect, as the public authority itself must.
“In a modern liberal democracy, there can be no ‘opt out’ for those who say they are unable to do their jobs because they wish to discriminate, even when that desire to discriminate derives from a religious belief.”
Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, which helped fund Miss Ladele’s case, said, “Christians will feel let down by this decision. It will only serve to reinforce the impression that Christians are being pushed to the sidelines of public life.
“Our nation’s highest court has effectively told them their concerns are not of general public importance.”
Britain is signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which ostensibly protects the rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion under Article 9. Article 9 goes on to say that these rights “shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Even if Ladele’s case goes to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), however, it will likely face an uphill battle. European advocates of religious freedoms have noted that ECHR is being used by homosexualist and secularist activists with increasing success to suppress the public expression of Christianity throughout Europe. A recent case at the ECHR caused outrage in Italy when the court ruled in favor of a complaint by an atheist, ordering all crucifixes removed from schools and public offices in Italy.
Legal experts have warned that this decision, which is still being appealed by the Italian government, could have far reaching effects, possibly resulting in the removal of all Christian symbols from all public spaces throughout the European Union.