In a move which will reassure many on both sides of the divide, Islington Council has announced it will appeal the ruling by the employment tribunal which supported Lillian Ladele’s claim that forcing her to abide by her job description as civil registrar to conduct civil partnerships, when she was a Christian literalist, amounted to religious discrimination.
Councillor John Gilbert said: “We believe an important question is at stake and the law must be clarified.
“Islington Council, like all councils and employers, needs to know whether we can expect employees to provide services to all sections of the community, regardless of who they are.”
And this is why the ruling was so preposterous – it flew in the face of both legislation and common sense. As a blogger more eloquent than I wrote yesterday:
I was under the impression we were living in a secular society. Beliefs are beliefs, they should be respected in as far as they don’t try to limit other people’s freedoms – this is hardly a new concept and it’s ironic that I’d have to reiterate it in a country that considers itself a democracy.
What’s even more ironic is that Lillian Ladele had a child out of wedlock, which when you look at the evidence presented to the tribunal makes it even more of a farce.
The tribunal’s judgement read:
“Ms Ladele is a Christian. Her unchallenged evidence was that she holds 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 marriage is the God-ordained place for sexual relations.
“She could not reconcile her faith with taking an active part in enabling same-sex unions to be formed.
“She told us that she believed this to be contrary to God’s instructions that sexual relations belong exclusively between a man and a woman within marriage.”
And in her interview with the Daily HateMail she admitted:
“I would not be able to conduct civil partnerships because it states in the Bible that marriage occurs between a man and a woman, not people of the same sex, and, as a Christian, I try to follow what the Bible teaches.
“I’m not homophobic. I’ve never had a problem with gay people or their lifestyle.
“My issue was purely that I did not want to be the one to facilitate same-sex civil partnerships because I do not agree with them.”
Lillian Ladele is indeed a pawn in this. She has been manipulated by the Christian Institute into achieving a result which isn’t even consistent with her own beliefs or practice. The result has to be overturned for the sake of sorting out the muddle of equality legislation in this matter, and because the vast majority of Christian and non-Christians alike don’t want this precedent to be set.
Of course the problem would not likely have arisen if Bishop Gene Robinson’s recommendation (which will be in a blog post I’m still working on) were adopted. He considers it strange that an established Church (ie. a Church that by definition is of the state ) should be allowed to discriminate at all, and that at the very least ‘civil rights’ need to be split from ‘religious rites’ – marriage should be a fully civil matter, which could afterwards be celebrated religiously or not. Any changes which would make the Christian Institute’s extremist position clear as a bell would have to be a good step forward.