Ultra religious Christian zealot Lillian Ladele has failed once again in her continuing quest to appeal against her sacking for discriminating against gay people:
An Islington registrar who refused to carry out civil partnerships for gay couples has lost her appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled today that Lillian Ladele had not been discriminated against. She had said she could not hold the ceremonies because of her Christian beliefs.
Lord Neuberger expressed some sympathy for her position but said that in a “modern liberal democracy”, only “very limited exceptions” could be made.
The Christian Institute, which is supporting Ladele, has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
The ruling was welcomed by Stonewall.
Director of public affairs Derek Munn said: “Stonewall are pleased that the Court of Appeal has upheld the right of lesbian and gay people to receive public services from public servants. We are glad that Islington council have seen this through for the sake of their lesbian and gay council tax payers.
“You can’t refuse a service to a person based on their gender, race or disability and you can’t on the basis of their sexual orientation either.”
You may remember civil registrar Ladele was fired by Islington Council for refusing to perform civil partnerships, and then took them to a tribunal, alleging religious discrimination. It’s becoming a reassuringly familiar refrain that appeals tribunals and courts, despite the appalling way in which gay and religious rights have been set against one another by this government, have brooked none of this from her or her ultra religious friends. The Christian Legal Centre however thinks otherwise:
“Civil partnerships were not being discriminated against, they were able to be performed by other registrars. Lilian Ladele has been discriminated against because of her Christian convictions.
“In a tolerant and civil society, we should be able to accommodate different groups.
“There will be serious consequences for religious freedom, conscience, acts and speech if we can’t learn to accommodate different groups.”
Except that wasn’t the issue – it was about Ladele refusing both to abide by her employer’s equal opportunities policy and then refusing different work, when offered, for the same pay. She felt that her religion afforded her what would have been essentially special rights – the right to discriminate in her employment on the grounds of belief. Now noone has suggested that she or any other theist should believe anything other than what they want, but their actions in civil society are governed by civil, not religious law. And despite the flaws in our equality legislation under civil law, she’s not allowed to act in a way that is detrimental to gay people. Accommodating the right to discriminate on the grounds of belief would not be the hallmark of a tolerant and civil society, and it’s something Symon Hill acknowledges:
Christians can welcome the court’s decision. We can emphasise that it is not an affront to Christian values – it is a victory for Christian values. Using traditional Christian terminology, we can point that it is not homosexuality, but homophobia, that is sinful. Those of who have gone along with homophobia in the past can declare our repentance of it.
In Jesus Christ, we have a messiah whose life embodied a message of radical inclusivity, a man who challenged religious hypocrisy and the abuse of power, who socialised with outcasts, broke religious and secular laws and forgave his persecutors as they killed him.
The New Testament’s ethical message is that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). It’s time for pro-equality Christians to make clear that our commitment to equality is not in tension with Christianity, or incidental to it, but flows naturally from it. Occasionally, I hear someone say “Symon’s against homophobia, even though he’s a Christian”. That’s just not true. I’m against homophobia because I’m a Christian.
Hill acknowledges the absurdity of Ladele’s position – her objection isn’t to anything she finds abhorrent to her zealous beliefs, just the gay bits. It’s an intellectually vapid take on religion, and fortunately one which neither the legislature nor the judiciary have any interest in enshrining into law.
Of course, any move to ensure gay people are treated the same as everyone else is immediately labelled “political correctness” and smothered in exaggeration and distortion. The defenders of homophobia can no longer, in polite society, say they think gay people are disgusting and immoral. Too many people have grasped the simple, humane truth that every human society in history has had 3 to 5 per cent of people who were attracted to their own gender, and it does no harm to anyone. So the homophobes have resorted to other tactics. One that has been growing over the past year is to claim that gay people who are trying to stop bullying and intimidation are “the real bullies”, trying to “silence” poor embattled homophobes.
We’ve got it happening with Christianists through to newspaper columnists – attacking homophobia is being spun as ‘infringing the right to believe’ or ‘breaching freedom of speech’; we do after all live in the age where there are no more universally understood or accepted ‘truths’. Just this week the House of Lords scrapped an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have criminalised incitement to homophobic hatred. The homophobes would have you believe it represented a victory for free speech:
it is defeat for what would have been an undemocratic and quite sinister attempt to prohibit the expression of opinions and feelings of which government disapproves (even though those opinions – disapproval of homosexual practices - constitute religious principles for many Muslims, Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews). Lesson: freedom of speech must be indivisible – even if it is sometimes hurtful and offensive.
But just look at what the amendment actually said:
“For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”
It’s pretty clear where the real bullying is here, and Ian Baynham knew it too, when he stood up for who he was against homophobic hatred. Hari suggests the ‘political correctness’ and religious fundamentalist lobbies legitimise hatred which leads to cases like Ian’s, like James Parkes’, like Michael Causer’s. I would tend to agree. The Christian Institute celebrated the amendment’s defeat however, saying it was a ‘victory for common sense’. Yet Hari points out:
[The] Stonewall study found that in schools with a consistent policy of punishing homophobic language, gay children were 60 per cent less likely to be attacked. That fall in violence could ripple out from the school gates – but today, only 6 per cent of schools adopt this policy. The Government should immediately make it mandatory.
They should indeed – incitement to homophobic hatred must be banned.
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.
It’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.