Christian demoted over civil partnership beliefs

A second Christian registrar has been disciplined and threatened with dismissal by Islington Council over the issue of civil partnerships, it has emerged.

The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge discusses the issue with LBC’s Nick Ferrari.

In a letter to members of the House of Lords, Theresa Davies tells of a “militant political-sexual libertarian lobby” in operation at the council.

Miss Davies was given the ultimatum of being demoted to an entry-level post or being dismissed from the Council because her Christian beliefs prevented her from registering same-sex civil partnerships.

Her story echoes that of friend and colleague Lillian Ladele, another Christian registrar who was bullied and threatened with the sack by the same council after she asked to be exempted from registering same-sex unions.

An Employment Tribunal upheld Miss Ladele’s claim of religious discrimination last year, but the ruling was overturned at an Employment Appeals Tribunal and Miss Ladele is now seeking a further appeal.

Like Miss Ladele, Miss Davies had worked for the Council for many years before finding herself in difficulty over the issue of civil partnerships when they were introduced in 2005.

She told her employers at the Council that her beliefs would prevent her from registering such unions.

Miss Davies says the pressure she was under while they considered her position forced her to take four months’ leave for stress.

When she returned to work she was given the option of leaving her job or accepting a receptionist position.

She said: “I was shocked because I knew that if they had wanted to they could have accommodated me.

“I know of other councils that have allowed Christian registrars to carry on by ensuring that colleagues are given civil partnerships – but I was told this was not Islington’s policy.

“I was very disappointed, very saddened and angry. It was humiliating to be back on reception, where I had started.”

Although Miss Davies was given some marriages to register after Miss Ladele’s initial tribunal win, this stopped again when the Council won its tribunal appeal in December 2008.

In January this year Islington Council produced a new Sexual Orientation Equalities Scheme, dubbed a ‘gay rights’ charter, which it said would keep the Council “at the forefront of ensuring equal treatment for gay people”.

“We were overjoyed to win the landmark Registrar case, and we are making it crystal clear that we expect all council employees to provide services to all people, regardless of who they are,” a councillor said.

Revd Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of Britain’s Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, compared Miss Davies’s views to those of a white supremacist. She said: “It is fine for people to hold opinions but you can’t use views to discriminate against other people.

“For example, the BNP, we all know they support white supremacy, they can believe what they like but they cannot be allowed to act on it.”

Speaking this weekend, Miss Davies said: “Britain is supposed to be a nation that respects freedom of conscience. But my conscience is not being respected. If Islington Council believes in dignity for all, why can’t my beliefs be accommodated and why is my dignity not being respected?

“I have nothing against homosexuals. My colleagues in the office will tell you that – and the openly gay ones have no problem with me. All I am asking is that the system can be arranged so I do not have to perform civil partnerships.”

Miss Davies is now launching a grievance procedure against the Council with the backing of the Christian Legal Centre.

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