Thursday July 10, 2008

UK Tribunal Rules that Christian Cannot be Forced to Conduct Gay Partnership Ceremony

By Hilary White

LONDON, July 10, 2008 ( – The Islington Council, by trying to force a civil marriage registrar to participate in homosexual domestic partnership ceremonies, perpetrated a “violation” of her dignity and “created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

In unexpectedly strong language, the Central London Employment Tribunal has ruled that Lillian Ladele, a Christian civil marriage registrar, cannot be forced to act contrary to her conscience in conducting homosexual domestic partnership ceremonies.

The panel ruled, “Islington Council rightly considered the importance of the right of the gay community not to be discriminated against but did not consider the right of Miss Ladele as a member of a religious group.”

“[The Council] decided that the service it provided was secular and that the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community must be protected. In so acting, Islington Council took no notice of the rights of Miss Ladele by virtue of her orthodox Christian beliefs.”

Miss Ladele said, “I am delighted at this decision. It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine. Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs.”

When Ladele was asked to participate in same-sex ceremonies, she would personally refuse, while arranging with colleagues to handle such cases. But complaints were made and when the Islington Council threatened to fire her if she did not conduct a same-sex ceremony, Ladele took them to the Employment Tribunal with a complaint of discrimination based on her religious beliefs.

The ruling confirmed, in a unanimous judgment, that Islington Council had directly discriminated against Miss Ladele for her religious beliefs when they refused to consider her for promotion, disciplined and threatened her with dismissal and accused her of gross misconduct. The Council was also found to have failed to redress allegations that she was “homophobic” and had labelled and treated her as “homophobic.” The Employment Tribunal also found that the Council had disregarded Ladele’s concerns about her treatment and failed to apply its anti-discrimination policies to homosexual colleagues who were mistreating her.

Ladele said she had been treated as a “pariah” by co-workers at the Islington Council, after she made it clear that her religious beliefs precluded her participating in civil partnership arrangements. The ruling concurred and found that the Council’s behaviour towards Ladele had amounted to unlawful harassment.

Miss Ladele’s Tribunal case was financed and represented by lawyers from the Christian Institute, a non-denominational Christian lobby group.

The Institute’s head of communications, Mike Judge, said the ruling says “enough is enough.”

“This important ruling confirms that gay rights should not be treated as trumping religious rights. The law clearly recognises this. If we really believe in equality before the law, that means respecting people who have sincerely held religious beliefs on sexual ethics.

“The witch hunt against those who disagree with homosexual practice has to stop.”

In May this year, another marriage registrar from Kent in south east England, testified to the 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.

Earlier this year, a Christian magistrate, Andrew McClintock, lost his final appeal to his suit in which he claimed conscientious objection based on his religious beliefs. McClintock, after 18 years experience on the South Yorkshire bench, was forced to resign from the family courts panel when he could not in conscience place children with homosexual partners for adoption.

Read related coverage:

“Climate of Fear” Growing in Britain for Christian Civil Marriage Registrars

Christian Magistrate Loses Conscientious Objection Appeal: Accuses Britain of “Totalitarianism”