A Christian registrar from Islington who was bullied and threatened with the sack because of her religious beliefs on same sex unions has succeeded in her claims of unlawful discrimination by the council.
In its unanimous judgment, the employment tribunal found that Miss Lillian Ladele was directly discriminated against by Islington Council after she asked to be allowed not to perform civil partnership registrations.
Miss Ladele was supported by her Legal team, James Dingemans QC and Mark Jones of Ormerods solicitors. The case was financed by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.
The highly significant ruling confirmed that the various acts of direct discrimination committed against Miss Ladele by Islington Council on the grounds of her religious belief included: failing to consider her for promotion; deciding to discipline her and threatening her with dismissal; concluding she had committed gross misconduct; failing to redress allegations that she was “homophobic” and labelling and treating her as homophobic; disregarding her concerns about her treatment; and failing to apply its anti-discrimination policies to gay colleagues who were mistreating her.
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.” (para.104 of the judgment).
In coming to their conclusion, the tribunal said, “It is an important case which may have a wider impact than the dispute between the parties.” (para.53 of the judgment).
Reacting to the decision, Miss 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.”
The case was financed by The Christian Institute. Its Head of Communications, Mike Judge, said: “This important ruling confirms that gay rights should not be treated as trumping religious rights. The law clearly recognises this.
“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.”
Mark Jones, solicitor for Miss Ladele, said: “Hopefully this decision will 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. 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.”