The Christian Institute

News Release

Lillian Ladele: 1960-2015 A courageous Christian lady

The Christian Institute

Wednesday 28 October 2015

For immediate use

Lillian Ladele, the Christian registrar whose court battle to protect freedom of conscience became the UK’s leading case on the issue, has died at home of natural causes aged 54.

  1. The Christian Institute has respected the wishes of the family not to publish information about her death until after the funeral.
  2. Miss Ladele faced a long-running legal battle, supported by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund, which went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
  3. In 2003 Lillian 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.
  4. The Institute’s in-house solicitor Sam Webster, and solicitor Mark Jones who represented Miss Ladele, were invited by her family to speak at the funeral, which took place yesterday at the Church of England church she attended in Islington.

High-resolution pictures of Lillian Ladele

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.

Islington accepted that it had more than 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.

Her solicitor Mark Jones said: “Lillian was a strong woman and a faithful Christian. She prayed for those who said hurtful things about her and tried to reflect the love of Christ to everyone she dealt with. When she gave evidence to the employment tribunal, she spoke of herself as a sinner saved by grace, and shared the gospel from the witness stand. It was a privilege to be her lawyer but it was an even greater privilege to be her brother in Christ.”

The Christian Institute’s Sam Webster said: “Lillian became synonymous in the minds of the public, courts and commentators with the cause of religious freedom and liberty of conscience. But throughout she conducted herself with grace, dignity and with love for those with whom she profoundly disagreed.”

Mr Webster added: “Lillian’s case established principles which are now impacting other cases and situations for good. It is a tribute to Lillian that official guidance now prompts public authorities to explore how they might accommodate those with a conscientious objection, including registrars.”

“Lillian was already on her case before The Christian Institute got involved, with help from Mark Jones. But the involvement of the Institute, through its Legal Defence Fund, meant that Lillian was able fully to pursue her case, as she wished. And we were able to give the necessary media and prayer support as well as friendship”, he also said.

Read Sam Webster’s remarks in full

Lillian’s family released a statement saying: “She honoured and worshipped Jesus Christ in her life and her family are comforted in their grief knowing that her name was written in the book of life and that she is now with her resurrected Lord and Saviour.”

Miss Ladele comprehensively won her case at an employment tribunal in 2008, but the decision was overturned on appeal.

Although subsequent courts accepted that she had been mistreated by her employers, they ruled against Lillian, before the case went to Europe.

In January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights upheld that ruling, and she was denied permission to appeal to the Grand Chamber.

Legal precedents

  1. The case consolidated the position that the orthodox religious belief of marriage being between one man and one woman is protected under human rights and discrimination law.
  2. The case, together with the other cases heard alongside it in Europe, reversed the longstanding position of the courts that a worker’s religious rights are not infringed if he or she can simply get another job. The European Court of Human Rights now says that this is only one factor to be taken into account. Employers should also explore other options.
  3. The judgment given by dissenting judges in Strasbourg has enhanced legal discussion about the distinct place of conscience within the European Convention on Human Right. The comments of the dissenting judges are now being deployed in other cases.


Notes to Editors:

The Christian Institute is a non-denominational national charity which since 1991 has been working on issues including religious liberty, marriage and the family, and Christian education.

The legal timetable was:

  1. July 2008 – Employment Tribunal finds Lillian Ladele was directly discriminated against.
  2. December 2008 – Employment Appeal Tribunal overturns original decision.
  3. December 2009 – Court of Appeal upholds the judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
  4. January 2013 – European Court of Human Rights decides against Lillian Ladele, by five to two. The two dissenting judges explained their reasoning, saying: “No balancing exercise can, therefore, be carried out between [Lillian Ladele’s] concrete right to conscientious objection, which is one of the most fundamental rights inherent in the human person – a right which is not given by the Convention but is recognised and protected by it – and a legitimate State or public authority policy which seeks to protect rights in the abstract.” They also said: “Ms Ladele did not fail in her duty of discretion: she did not publicly express her beliefs to service users. Her beliefs had no impact on the content of her job, but only on its extent. She never attempted to impose her beliefs on others, nor was she in any way engaged, openly or surreptitiously, in subverting the rights of others.” Read the full judgment.
  5. May 2013 – Appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights denied.