Christian marriage registrar case goes to Europe

Fri, 31 Aug 2012

Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar from Islington who was disciplined because of her stance against civil partnerships, takes her case to Europe next week.

On Tuesday (4 Sept) the European Court of Human Rights will consider whether the UK Government has failed to protect her from religious discrimination.

The court will also consider three other cases from the UK involving the religious liberty of Christians.

Backing

A ruling is not expected for several months. Miss Ladele’s legal case is being supported by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.

In 2003 Miss Ladele told her managers at Islington Council that, should civil partnerships ever become law, she would have a conflict of conscience based upon her Christian beliefs about marriage.

Following the introduction of civil partnerships, Miss Ladele wrote to her employer in 2006 asking for a reasonable accommodation of her religious objection to same-sex civil partnerships.

Demand

Islington accepted that it had enough registrars to provide a civil partnership service to the public without requiring Miss Ladele’s involvement.

But managers at the council refused her request, and demanded that she carry out civil partnership registrations against her will.

Miss Ladele says managers ignored her complaints that she was being harassed by her colleagues because of her beliefs.

Harassed

In 2008 an employment tribunal ruled that Islington Council had discriminated against Miss Ladele, and that she had suffered harassment.

But that finding was overturned on appeal, and the Court of Appeal subsequently upheld that decision.

The courts did, however, say that Miss Ladele was treated in an improper, unreasonable and extraordinary manner but held that it did not amount to religious discrimination.

Preview

European judges will hear the case on Tuesday (4 Sept), but a ruling is not expected for several months.

Joshua Rozenberg, Britain’s best-known legal journalist, has previewed the Ladele case for the Law Society Gazette.

He said: “Everyone should respect the rights of same-sex couples to register civil partnerships in accordance with the law.

Balance

“But we should also respect the rights of those with religious convictions, so long as those beliefs do not conflict with the rights of others.

“Surely a fair and balanced approach to both rights is not too much to ask?”

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