Britain’s acceptance of those from different racial, social or religious backgrounds has long been an attractive aspect of our national character.
But this culture of tolerance has come under pressure from politicians and the courts, who have put the often stridently expressed demands of minorities ahead of the rights of the majority.
No case has so clearly illustrated this as that of Lillian Ladele, the registrar whose Christian beliefs – beliefs incidentally that in the broader sense shaped the DNA of this country – led her to refuse to perform same-sex civil partnerships.
The Mail supports the right to undertake civil partnerships, but not to force others to participate in ceremonies with which they may profoundly disagree.
But Miss Ladele’s bosses at Islington council, always ready to leap to the defence of the gay community, concluded that she was prejudiced, and insisted that she change her mind.
So she took them to an employment tribunal and – to the amazement of all those who have given up on the ability of our legal system to stand up for ordinary Britons – she won.
The tribunal concluded that Miss Ladele had been discriminated against, that the council had allowed the rights of homosexuals to trump her religious beliefs, and that it was utterly wrong.
The battle is far from over. Islington may appeal against the judgment. And we should never underestimate the sheer zeal of the commissars of political correctness to get their way.
I remember the Daily HateMail in the 80s, stirring up hate against ‘loonies’ and the ‘left’, as though standing up for, promoting and funding equality was only something which those with diseased minds would do. This paper has never accepted difference. They have railed incessantly against gay people, asylum seekers, foreigners and others, and in addition to their Nazi-supporting past have run appalling, personal campaigns against politicians such as Ken Livingstone who have had the temerity to stand up to them.
Their claim that the case against Lillian Ladele was a demand by a ‘strident’ minority against the ‘rights’ of the majority is an outright deceit. Noone has suggested for a moment that gay rights should trump those of straight people or even the religious – that would be ridiculous because they are not fundamentally in opposition to one another. However the stridently religious believe that gay people are not equal – Lillian Ladele said she couldn’t fulfil her job description for gay people because of her ‘religious beliefs’. To allow belief as an excuse for enforcing in equality would be as dangerous as it is monstrous. In effect she demanded an opt out from the social norms which we are all now bound by, but against which the Daily HateMail continues to campaign. Her religion is not fundamentally opposed to gay people or homosexuality, whatever hysterical theists like Iris Robinson would have you believe, and to enshrine such an opt out under the law would be to misrepresent even her religion.
The HateMail suggests that this is ‘political correctness’, as if a local council standing up for equality before the law (and Ladele’s job description was bound by at least two laws) were something undesirable. It makes no difference whether or not the council could fulfil its remit to provide civil partnerships without her – the argument was whether or not the stridently religious could get special treatment in employment, treatment which allowed them to discriminate in the world of work, based merely on belief and not on the law which is supposed to apply to the rational majority. That Lillian Ladele has (for now) succeeded is a slap in the face for the real majority, who are not in any way connected to the bigoted, small-minded, xenophobic and hateful DNA of the country which the HateMail thinks it appeals to.
Bigotry is not a ‘right’ held by the majority, whatever else the tabloid would have you believe; Iris Robinson didn’t have this right, nor does Lillian Ladele. Thankfully our thoughts can’t (yet) be controlled, but we do not have the ‘right’ to impose our darker thoughts on those different to us, or those whom we dislike or disapprove of, at least not in the world of work. The law has, in this instance, said that belief trumps the rule of law, that Islington Council was wrong, despite having equality policies which Lillian Ladele was bound by, and laws governing the conduct of her job, to enforce her job description for all, not just some. It’s an outrageous decision, based on a flawed interpretation of the law, and it must be challenged for all our sakes.