A Christian group opposed to gay rights has welcomed an employment tribunal ruling that Islington council discriminated against a registrar who wanted to opt out of performing civil partnership ceremonies on religious grounds.
The Christian Institute financed Lillian Ladele’s case. The tribunal ruled that she was unlawfully discriminated against because of her religion.
It also found that Islington council failed to apply its anti-discrimination policies to gay colleagues who were mistreating her, failed to stop bullying against her and labelled her homophobic.
“This important ruling confirms that gay rights should not be treated as trumping religious rights,” said Mike Judge, the head of communications at the Christian Institute.
“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.”
Last year the Christian Institute claimed that the new offence of incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation restricts free speech, targets Christians and will stifle debate about homosexuality.
The fundamentalist group previously failed to stop the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations which protect LGB people from discrimination in goods and services.
It objected to the extension of incitement to racial hatred laws to sexual orientation as “homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle. Many ‘gay rights’ activists would say that their sexual orientation is a choice, not a genetic characteristic.”
Mark Jones, solicitor for Miss Ladele, said that today’s ruling may “encourage other employers to balance competing rights where they conflict.”
“In standing up for her faith, Lillian Ladele found herself vilified by various people, including some holding themselves out as protectors of the rights and freedoms of others,” he said.
“She faced this with a quiet dignity. I hope that those who were quick to criticise Lillian – including those holding political and clerical office – will now swiftly express their support for her (and others like her) now she has been revealed as the victim, and not the perpetrator, of the discrimination they purport to oppose.”
The tribunal also 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.”