By Hilary White

LONDON, May 22, 2008 ( – Elizabeth Thatcher, a Christian council registrar from Kent in south east England, told the London Employment Tribunal that since the introduction of civil ceremonies for registered same-sex partnerships in December 2005, a “climate of fear” has grown among Christians working as marriage registrars. Christian lay registrars are said to be “terrified” that the homosexualist agenda will force them to either give up their jobs or violate their religious beliefs.

Thatcher said of a colleague, “She told me that she was terrified about herself or her authority being identified because she could be vilified or the authority put under pressure to remove her”.

“I have heard of one Christian who has had to resign, but I know of others who have been accommodated,” she told the tribunal.

The case being heard by the London Tribunal was called a “landmark” by the Daily Telegraph over whether employees can be required to act against their consciences. It was brought by Lillian Ladele, 47, and a Christian registrar, against Islington council in north London. Ladele says she was bullied and shunned and accused of “homophobia” for her refusal to carry out the civil partnerships.

Miss. Ladele told the Tribunal, “I hold the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that this is the God-ordained place for sexual relations.”

She told the BBC, “I am not seeking to obstruct people forming civil partnerships. I believe that forcing someone to work contrary to her conscience is not right.”

“I feel unable to facilitate directly the formation of a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God’s law.”

The council is required to provide a registrar for civil partnership ceremonies, but it has the right to choose who does them and in the past, Miss. Ladele had made accommodation with other registrars to avoid having to perform the ceremonies for homosexual partners. To date, no homosexual partners have been denied a ceremony from the Islington council.

A spokesman for the Christian Institute, the group covering costs for Ladele’s case, said the case is a clear matter of religious discrimination. “Other occupations allow conscientious objections,” said Mike Judge.

“No homosexual couple is being denied their right to marriage, because other registrars are performing them.”

Judge said the issue of the meaning of marriage is a contested issue, with different opinions among many Londoners. “But I don’t think that Lillian should be facing the sack just because she has that one particular point of view.”

“And that’s what is at issue here. She is being disciplined and threatened with the sack because she’s a Christian,” he said.