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Sympathy for Lillian Ladele?

Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 in human rights, News, religion

Civil registrar and Christianist zealot Lillian Ladele is at it again:

Controversial claims that Christians should not have to condone homosexuality will be made in the court of appeal today, as a registrar says she suffered discrimination by being required to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

Lillian Ladele, 48, has said she was treated unfairly in her role as a registrar for Islington council, which expected her to carry out the ceremonies despite her beliefs that they were “contrary to God’s law“.

“If this decision is allowed to stand it will help squeeze Christians from the public sphere because of their religious beliefs on ethical issues,” said Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, which is backing Ladele’s appeal.

“The rights of Muslims and homosexuals are protected, but the rights of Christians always seem to be on a lower level,” he added.

Lilllian-Ladele-001It’s a now familiar refrain. Arch Christians, now armed with equality legislation protecting their right to believe from discrimination, trying to suggest that their fundamentalist beliefs should somehow trump the rule of law. And Lillian Ladele failed in her earlier case against dismissal on quite logical grounds, which I don’t believe for a moment will be overturned. Religious equality legislation doesn’t give Christian zealots or anyone else the right to pick and choose who they are prepared to serve in the world of work, and nor should it – it’s quite absurd. Peter Tatchell puts the case against Ladele brilliantly when he says:

“The issue is very simple. Gay people have no right to discriminate against religious people, and religious people have no right to discriminate against gay people.”

Despite the absurdity of legislation protecting belief from discrimination he’s fundamentally right. So why sympathy for Lillian Ladele? As Afua Hirsch puts it:

Ladele told the court of appeal this week that she felt her religious views had been “caricatured”, a claim which deserves some sympathy given passages in the previous judgment like this one: “fundamental changes in social attitudes, particularly with respect to sexual orientation, are happening very fast and for some – and not only those with religious objections – they are genuinely perplexing” a patronising remark that is unlikely to have made this an easier pill to swallow.

I think it’s fair to say her devoutness has been caricatured, also to say  that she should be allowed to have private homophobic thoughts for any reason she chooses. But homophobic behaviour is illegal, we are governed by the rule of law, and Christianity has a unique place in the British constitutional order; to suggest Christians are losing out in the equality agenda is blatant nonsense. I have sympathy for people whose beliefs don’t serve them well in the modern world, but I have no sympathy for anyone who thinks they can use their belief to opt out of having to abide by the rules by which the rest of us are supposed to treat one another. That way after all leads to the fate which befell Ian Baynham and nearly befell James Parkes.


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