OH, they are so full of themselves – those self-righteous cranks over at the Christian Institute, where their head of communications, Mike Judge, yesterday gleefully declared:
â€¦ Gay rights should not be treated as trumping religious rights. The law [now] clearly recognises this.
Judge was all cock-a-hoop over a bizarre employment tribunal decision this week that a Christian registrar from Islington – Lillian Ladele – had been discriminated against by the council after she refused to conduct same-sex civil unions.
Ladele’s case was financed by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund – and she now expects to receive thousands in compensation.
The tribunal accepted that Islington Council had been able to deliver a “first-class” service to homosexual couples seeking civil partnerships, without Miss Ladele’s involvement. Therefore, the Council’s decision to require Miss Ladele to perform civil partnership registrations, contrary to her conscience, was an unlawful act of indirect religious discrimination.
The Council’s actions also amounted to unlawful harassment. The judgment found that the Council “disregarded and displayed no respect for Ms Ladele’s genuinely held religious belief,” and it created an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her on grounds of her religion on belief.”
Reacting to the decision, 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.
According to the Daily Mail, Islington Council was disappointed by the result which carried a ‘wider implication’ for local authorities. It was considering an appeal against the result.
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.
Councillor John Gilbert was quoted as saying:
We’re clearly disappointed with the result, as we consider our approach was the right one. We are now considering the judgment carefully in order to decide whether we should appeal.
On first reading, the Tribunal seems to have based its findings primarily on the fact that we could have continued to provide civil partnerships without Ms Ladele.
The wider issue of whether councils should be able to expect employees to carry out civil partnerships doesn’t seem to have been fully addressed. In our view this is a crucial question that has much wider implications for local authorities and employers.
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, is outraged by the judgment:
This is catastrophic not just for gay people but for the wider community. It appears to place the religious ‘conscience’ of registrars above their legal duty to carry out parliament’s legislation.
Ms Ladele now seems to have won the right to be exempt from some of her duties on the grounds that she is a Christian. Putting religious rights and gay rights under the same legal umbrella when they are incompatible was bound eventually to lead to this confrontation. This decision appears to show that religious rights trump gay rights and that should leave gay people quaking in their boots.
If it sets a precedent, this entirely wrong decision will have major implications for the Government’s equality and human rights agenda. This raises all kinds of implications far beyond the gay community. What other duties will religious people now claim exemption from? We have already seen pharmacists refuse contraception on religious grounds and supermarket check-out attendants refusing to handle alcohol or pork products. Others demand that they should not be required to work on holy days.
We urge the Council to appeal and hope the decision is rapidly overturned.