A Court of Appeal ruling is expected before Christmas in the case of Lillian Ladele – the Christian registrar disciplined for her views on same sex civil partnerships.
The appeal was heard on Monday and Tuesday by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, and two other Lord Justices of Appeal.
It is believed to be the first case involving a clash between religious rights and sexual orientation rights to have been considered at this level in England and Wales.
Lawyers acting for Miss Ladele say she was shunned by colleagues at Islington Council who mounted a witch hunt against her because of her Christian beliefs.
An employment tribunal accepted Miss Ladele’s claims of discrimination and harassment, but that was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in December last year.
The EAT did accept that Islington had acted in an improper, unreasonable and extraordinary manner but ruled it did not amount to religious discrimination.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “Islington Council accepts it was able to provide civil partnerships registrations without forcing Lillian to take part.
“They could therefore have reasonably accommodated Miss Ladele’s genuinely held religious belief without affecting service delivery.
“That would have been a balanced approach which respected both sides of the debate. Instead they chose to make gay rights more important than religious rights.
“If this decision is allowed to stand it will help squeeze out Christians from the public sphere because of their religious beliefs on ethical issues.”
Reacting to last year’s ruling, Miss Ladele’s solicitor Mark Jones said in December: “The evidence showed that Lillian performed all of her duties to the same high standard for the LGBT community as she did for everyone.
“This case has been about the shortfall between the principle of equal dignity and respect for different lifestyles and world views, and Islington Council’s treatment of Lillian Ladele – conduct which the tribunal felt moved to describe as extraordinary and unreasonable.
“The case has also been about the reason why Islington Council decided to designate Lillian Ladele a civil partnership registrar, without informing her, when she had asked not to be made one; when the council expressly knew it would conflict with her religious belief (a religious belief it accepted was worthy of respect); and when the evidence showed that her involvement was not even required to help the council provide its civil partnership service.
“The council has since then pursued Lillian Ladele in disciplinary proceedings which it has made clear may ultimately lead to her dismissal.”