Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Christian registrar seeks conscience exemption

Christian Institute says, "A Christian registrar, Lillian Ladele, is presenting her case to an employment tribunal after her Council employers refused to grant her a conscience exemption from registering same-sex unions.

Miss Ladele, who currently works for Islington Council, has been a registrar for nearly 16 years. Before the Civil Partnerships Act came into effect in 2005 she asked to be excused from registering civil partnerships between same-sex couples because to do so would conflict with her religious beliefs.

She has subsequently been disciplined by her employers, and other colleagues have been allowed to choose not to work with her because of her beliefs.

Miss Ladele says that although the law requires local authorities to provide a civil partnership service, the requirement does not extend to individual registrars.

Her case will be heard by an employment tribunal beginning on Tuesday, 20 May, and is expected to last four days. Miss Ladele's lawyers will argue to the tribunal that by forcing her to take part in forming civil partnerships against her conscience, Islington Council are infringing equality laws.

Miss Ladele said: "This is a subject on which there are a variety of views in our society. As a matter of religious conscience, I simply can't take part in the formation of a civil partnership."

She continued: "I am not seeking to obstruct people forming civil partnerships and I have many colleagues who are willing to assist with the formation of civil partnerships. Other local authorities in this situation have agreed to accommodate individual consciences.

"Unfortunately, after nearly 16 years' service, this is unacceptable to my local authority, although it has decided it is acceptable for colleagues to choose not to work with me because they object to my religious beliefs.

"I believe that forcing someone to work contrary to their conscience and under threat of dismissal is not right. If we are genuine when we talk about diversity and equality then shouldn't we be prepared to tolerate a range of views, not simply those we agree with?""

I pray she will be vindicated and this discriminatory Council have to pay up and stop shunning her.

In the Hebrides the Council will abide by the law and register so called civil unions. But there will be no ceremony if any homosexuals wish to register in Stornoway. The law requires only a register. The council can refuse any ceremony.

21 comments:

Harry's Blog said...

Congratulations on posting a piece of pure bigotry. Whatever you may think privately of homosexuals you are not entitled in the public sphere to treat us as inferior by refusing us the right of marriage. I am happilly married to my partner of 17 years. (The ceremony was at Islington town hall.) He is a senior teacher. I am a (reasonably successful) lawyer. we are a stable household. We pay our taxes. We contribute to the community. And people like you and this bigot who has been quite rightly sacked would push us back to inequality.

please think about the founder of your relgion might have thought...

Graham Weeks said...

For a lawyer you display a remarkable ignorance of the law. I have not refused you the right of marriage. The law has. You are not married. You are in a civil union, though civility too seems to be difficult for you.

Quentin said...

But surely that's the whole point? It's a CIVIL union: an entirely secular arrangement. Religion is quite rightly excluded from either gay or straight civil ceremonies. If Ms Ladele objects, she is surely in the wrong job and should seek employment elsewhere.

This case will set a precedent, and I do hope Ms Ladele's appeal is thrown out on its ear.

A registrar who refused to conduct ceremonies on the basis that the couple were black or of different races would quite rightly be condemned. An individual's personal prejudices cannot be permitted to interfere with the laws of this country.

Graham Weeks said...

Doctors and nurses do not have to take part in abortions. The law does nor require all registrars to conduct civil unions. As a pharmacist i am free to choose not to sell the morning after pill. I do not though refuse to dispense it. Why should the law force consciences? This is not a secular state by law.

Quentin said...

The difference between the examples you quote and Ms Ladele's case is that the latter is a matter of discrimination. The council (and by extension its employees) cannot be seen to be offering one service to one section of society and not to another. And lest you try and make the case that marriage and civil partnerships are two different services, we ALL know that CPs are gay marriage in all but name, and it's only the fact that the government lacked the requisite backbone that prevented them being so called.

Graham Weeks said...

Marriage is my definition heterosexual. The government did not lack backbone. It was constrained by the fact we have an established church, the majority of whose clergy could not be forced to act against Christian doctrine and their consciences. Anglican clergy have to marry parishioners. They cannot marry those who cannot be married, those of the same sex. There is a proper discrimination between marriage and homosexual fornication. They cannot bless that which God condemns.

Quentin said...

I guess I should have been more clear. When I said civil partnerships are gay marriage in all but name, I meant they are the equivalent to the civil marriage ceremony. They confer all the same rights and obligations in law as do heterosexual marriages.

I wasn't comparing civil partnerships to church weddings as performed by clergy, partly because it isn't relevant to this particular case (as I've already stated: religion is rightly excluded from gay or straight civil unions), and partly because I can't see why any gay couple in their right minds would want to get married in a church.

The pre-occupation (nay, obsession in many cases) with homosexuality that so many Christians seem to have really does baffle me. When there is so much that is wrong with the world, why concentrate on denigrating loving relationships between consenting adults?

Graham Weeks said...

Thank you for your response. I agree that a civil union confers the same rights in law as marriage but does it confer the same obligations? I have only been to one civil wedding. before the vows the registrar spoke about the exclusivity and life long nature of marriage. As a civil union requires only a register and no ceremony, surely with no vows there are no obligations? Is fidelity an obligation in a civil union? If not there is no equivalence to marriage.

What you call "the pre-occupation (nay, obsession in many cases) with homosexuality that so many Christians seem to have" is in part explained by one's doubt that it is all about loving relationships. That is not the impression one gets from observing a gay pride event. It comes across as the obsession of homosexuals, the centre around which life revolves, an obsession with sexuality which they must shove in our faces. There is an eccentric preoccupation with sex. Sex is not part of life, it is the centre of life.

On top of this, homosexual acts, are AFAIK, the only thing the Bible calls sin which we are now told is no sin but a matter of pride. When evil is called good, the Christian should protest. All sin falls short of God's standards. It is bad and to be abhorred. As far as I am concerned, homosexual sin differs little from other sins except that the world is not telling me to approve of other ones.

Quentin said...

Hi Graham

Thanks for your thoughts. It's an interesting read.

I can understand where you're coming from by finding it difficult to understand gay relationships. My parents had exactly the same issues when I first came out to them. They're a nice, middle class couple who to their knowledge had never met a gay person in their lives. All their information about gay people was gleaned from the media, so they not unnaturally assumed that I was about to enter a twilight world of scary skinheaded and pierced people, banner waving extremists, drag queens, drug takers and predatory older men. Many years on, I am in a nine year relationship with my partner. We have both been emotionally and physically faithful in all that time, and are as much in love today as we were when we met. Furthermore, my parents are incredibly happy for me and frequently tell me how my relationship with my partner is the happiest and healthiest of all the couples they know. Sure sex is part of the equation but it's not the be all and end all. My partner is my lover, my confidant and my best friend.

So there are, let me reassure you, many, many gay couples who live quiet, humdrum lives who are not sensational or exciting enough to be given attention in the media. That is not to say I disapprove of Gay Pride events. Their participants are only having fun - and in the early days, such radical behaviour was an important tool in overturning the centuries of invisibility and persecution that gays had suffered.

Nevertheless, I can understand why it makes you feel uncomfortable and all I can say is that if you got to know some more "conservative" gays, they might not appear quite so frightening. This is why it's important for more gay people to come out and not hide in the closet. The more straight people realise that they are not freaks, but normal people with the same hopes and desires as them, the more prejudice will be broken down. And that's another reason why civil partnerships are important.

When it comes to the Bible, as an atheist, I'm afraid the writings of two thousand and more years ago have little relevance to my life. They're an interesting historical document, but that is all as far as I'm concerned. It does interest me that Christians focus on the passages that relate to homosexuality, and yet are happy to ignore the condemnation of eating shellfish and pork, and of wearing clothes of mixed fibres as no longer relevant in a modern age. Surely you can't pick and choose what you want to take from the Bible? Isn't it all or nothing?

Graham Weeks said...

Thank you again Quentin for your response.

I do know conservative homosexuals. I have them among my customers and councillors with whom I served. I am not judging the lifestyle on the basis of its more demonstrative but on the basis of Christian faith informed by the Bible.

I am a Christian, not an Orthodox Jew bound by all the mosaic dietary and other laws. The Christian is given freedom on food and modest dress. It does not extend to sexual relations outside of marriage.

I also have a friend who is very demonstratively homosexual. He is a most helpful, excellent worker. I like him.

I am pleased you are in a faithful relationship. But it remains a lifestyle of which I could never approve.

Logic Lad said...

Going back to a point made earlier.

Surely the point here is that her job was to perform Civil ceremonies not make value judgements concerning if they are right or wrong. If she feels unable to perform her duties then she should quit, not refuse to do her job. While an understanding employer can take personal opinion onto consideration when assigning duties if she is required to do something on her job spec and she refuses she should be prepared to reap the results.
There is more and more of this type of special pleading for various, not just religious, grounds. surely this puts undue pressure on employers, they are not allowed to discrimate when hiring based on race, colour or creed so why to the employees get to do it?

and as a specific question, how does some one refusing to perform a gay civil ceremony differ from refusing to officiate based on colour or other personal bias?

Graham Weeks said...

The lady was employed before the law on civil unions was past. It was not her job to officiate at them. It was as it were added to her job description and she has opted out of the add on.

Logic Lad said...

Fair comment, however at the point that her conditions of work changed it was her choice to stay or leave. She knew the condequences of her actions by staying, that she would be obligied to act against her morals. If she had stated her complaint at the time of the change she may have been able to work with her employer towards some comparimise, admitedly this is doubtful as alowing her to pick and choose the duties she will and won't do amounts to discrimination against the other workers, however she didn't. She chose to refuse to do a duty she had effectivly accepted by continuing to accept payment from her employers. My point here is not about her reasons for refusing, though I think that using anti discrimination laws to demand you are compensated for bring a bigot is a real abuse of the spirit of said law, if she felt she could not complete her duties why does she feel that she should still get paid?

Logic Lad said...

Wow, just reread my last comment and I can only apologies for the spelling

Graham Weeks said...

The tribunal vindicated the lady. Employers cannot just add to an employees duties without their consent, especially when they outrage one's moral stance.

Logic Lad said...

Graham,

I am not discussing the outcome of the tribunal, she won, I personally don't agree with the judgement but that is my perogative and I hope it is taken to appeal. I thought we where discussing the ethical questions of doing your job in the face of personal convictions. I can't help but notice you have failed to actually addres any of the points I raised. If the tribunal found against her would you be happy to sit there and say 'fair enough she was clearly in the wrong'.

As to the opting out, fine I don't have a problem with this, as long as she has also sacrificed some of the rewards of the job, ie payment, pension, holiday allowance. Why should she get the same benefits as people prepared to do the whole job?

And finally a question I hope you will actually answer, If this person was not citing religious grounds for her objections would you still be so strongly supporting her case?

Graham Weeks said...

To answer all your questions, 'There is more and more of this type of special pleading for various, not just religious, grounds. surely this puts undue pressure on employers, they are not allowed to discrimate when hiring based on race, colour or creed so why to the employees get to do it?"'

Employers should specify duties and ask if people cannot carry them out. You cannot advertise for an obstetrician and expect them to carry our abortions unless the job specification states they are a requirement. If you want employes to sell alcohol you need to state it lest a Muslim refuse.

'how does some one refusing to perform a gay civil ceremony differ from refusing to officiate based on colour or other personal bias?'

Colour is fixed at birth. I do not believe sexual behaviour is.

' If the tribunal found against her would you be happy to sit there and say 'fair enough she was clearly in the wrong'.'

I am tempted to say I do not answer hypothetical questions, but my answer would be yes, I should have to.

'As to the opting out, fine I don't have a problem with this, as long as she has also sacrificed some of the rewards of the job, ie payment, pension, holiday allowance. Why should she get the same benefits as people prepared to do the whole job?'

It was not part of her original job spec as I wrote before.

'And finally a question I hope you will actually answer, If this person was not citing religious grounds for her objections would you still be so strongly supporting her case?'

Another hypothetical question, I cannot answer as it would depend on whether it was part of the original job spec.

Logic Lad said...

In this case it is not simply a whim of the employer that the nature of the job changed, it was a very specific change in the law, and I am quite sure that part of her contract is to fulfil the legal requirements of a registra if they change so does her job. I go back to my previous comment about if she feels unable to fulfil her role then it is on her to come to some form of comprimise with her employers. If she is allowed to do only the parts if the jobs she feels like doing the employer is discrimanting against all the other registras who are actually prepared to fulfil their contracts.

So homophobia is ok but racism is not, interesting view point, however if you think it is ok to discriminate against people becuase of voluntary choices then surely there is no grounds for discrimination based on religion, the religion you follow is a personnal choice, more so than whom you find physically attactive.

So you do think it is fair that she get full pay for not doing the full job? and i reliase this is a hypothetical question, would you consider it acceptable if you where working along side her in the office, that she gat paid the same as you but has refused to perform certain duties?

You don't like to answer hypothetical questions? how on earth do you consider what your response / actions will be to possible events then? or are you so busy in the present that you have no time to plan ahead and think of possible outcomes? I realise that hypothetical questions can make you think deeply about what you actually believe and think, that is rather the point to them. Or are you so sure that you cannot be wrong in anything that you think or say that you don't feel the need for any introspection?

Graham Weeks said...

The lady's stance has been legally vindicated.I do not think there is more to say.

I will answer no more hypothetical questions because I have enough to do answering ones about the real situations one finds in the world.

Logic Lad said...

How can you support discrimination based on sexuality, something you define as a personal choice, and yet be against it when it comes to religion, another personal choice?
I thought i would try asking again as you seem to either be ignoring or missing parts of my posts.

If you are not prepared to actually answer any questions please say so in the next post so i can stop wasting my time on actually trying to have a conversation with you.

Graham Weeks said...

I discriminate between various kinds of sexual conduct and between differing religious professions. We all make judgments as to conduct.