Top lawyer: European judges got Ladele ruling ‘wrong’

Mon, 21 Jan 2013

A leading religious liberties lawyer has criticised the ruling against a Christian registrar in Europe last week, saying the judges in Strasbourg “got it wrong”.

In a piece for The Guardian website, Mark Hill QC said Lillian Ladele is the “real loser” in the four discrimination cases, because her stance on civil partnerships could have been accommodated.

Lillian Ladele was pushed out of her job as a registrar at Islington Council because of her Christian beliefs on marriage.

Discrimination

Five judges rejected her claim at the European Court of Human Rights, but two believed that she had suffered discrimination.

The two dissenting judges gave a “powerful” minority opinion, according to Mark Hill QC.

They believe Miss Ladele’s dismissal was caused by “a combination of backstabbing by her colleagues and the blinkered political correctness of the borough of Islington (which clearly favoured ‘gay rights’ over fundamental human rights)”.

Fundamental

Mark Hill QC said the change in “a fundamental term of her employment gave her a stark choice: to act against her religious convictions (which the court accepted were conscientiously and sincerely held) or to leave her employment.

“With creative rostering and constructive deployment, Ladele’s religious convictions could have been accommodated by Islington without any detriment to the registration of civil partnerships in the borough.”

He added, “it is regrettable that a deserving applicant such as Lillian Ladele has lost her meritorious fact-specific case and is jobless”.

Conflict

In 2003 Miss Ladele told her managers that should civil partnerships ever become law, she would have a conflict of conscience.

Following the introduction of civil partnerships, 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 to abstain, and demanded that she carry out civil partnership registrations against her will.

Resign

Mark Hill QC said he welcomed the judges’ “clear steer” away from the UK Government’s stance that Christians could either go against their religious beliefs or find another job.

He said: “Employers will no longer be able to say: we are not stopping any employee practising their religion because he or she can simply resign and move to another job.”

Lillian Ladele has the option of appealing the decision to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

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