Friday, December 19, 2008

Ladele: Council did not discriminate

Further to my last post on the subject, I'm glad that common sense has prevailed over bigotry, with Islington Council winning its appeal against the Employment Tribunal ruling that it had discriminated against Lilian Ladele. To recap, Ms Ladele was employed by the Council as a registrar, but refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies, due to her religious beliefs. Fairly obviously, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that: "The council were not taking disciplinary action against Ms Ladele for holding her religious beliefs. They did so because she was refusing to carry out civil partnership ceremonies and this involved discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The council were entitled to take the view that they were not willing to connive in that practice by relieving Ms Ladele of the duties". Ms Ladele is now appealing to the Court of Appeal - let's hope common sense prevails there also.

15 comments:

  1. It seems the Employment Appeal Tribunal took the "conscience is expendable" approach that is often argued here. We will see whether the Court of Appeal takes the same approach.

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  2. But can you use conscience as an excuse for discrimination? What if 'conscience' caused a person to discriminate on the grounds of race? Who would argue then that conscience was not expendable?

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  3. Yes, the point at issue is the priority and permissibility of beliefs, and the extent to which the government or the judicial system can rule religious beliefs to be unconstitutional or illegal.

    One thing I take as given: discrimination in the form of verbal or physical **violence** is off bounds to me, even for moral choices with which I strongly disagree. According to the press reports I have seen, that is not an issue in the case of Ms. Ladele either; where she has provided general services to people with a sexual orientation she disagrees with, it is claimed that she did so conscientiously and without discrimination. This statement is ascribed to her solicitor, but in the absence of any evidence to the contrary it seems reasonable to trust this statement.

    The issue is that her (and my) Christian beliefs include value judgements about sexual choices (and many other issues). As far as I have learned about the circumstances, I think I would have made roughly the same choices. I would have handled any paperwork for the clients in question as conscientiously and tolerantly as possible, but taking an active role to solemnise a relationship which I disagree with would go a step too far, making me an accessory to their relationship. And it would be a disservice to the clients seeking a same-sex marriage, too - if I were forced to act against my conscience, I would not do a good job of meeting their expectations, and they would notice (for example if I were expected to smile at some stage in the proceedings, but were unable to do so because of my own misgivings about the ceremony itself).

    Your comparison with race discrimination does not do full justice to the issues involved (although even there, a registrar with an open and friendly attitude irrespective of skin colour would do a far better job of solemnising the proceedings).
    The ruling of the present tribunal effectively implies that religious beliefs which include value judgements on sexual orientation are not legal and that conscience is debarred on this issue. I find that discriminating.

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  4. I'm sorry, but I don't think that another person's sexual orientation is any business of mine.

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  5. Agreed - as long as I am not called on to play an active role in it. And they would definitely notice the absence of that smile (and the presence of other emotions). So to enforce the latest ruling in a meaningful way, the law would have to legislate for my emotional life.

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  6. If you agree that another person's sexual orientation is none of your business, then why does it bother you?

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  7. Is Lilian Ladele's religious conviction and her value judgement anyone else's business? As I share her position (at least on the issues I have seen reported in the press), I feel tarred with the same brush.

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  8. Not so long as it does not adversely affect anyone else, as it does here.

    If you are a homophobe, then you are tarred with the same brush.

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  9. Sigh. Late to the party as usual. Me and my friends' festive pub crawl meant I didn't notice this decision on Friday - BAD Usefully Employed. The original tribunal makes the same mistake as Victor above: Christianity versus teh gays. It's not the right approach - Victor feels like his religious beliefs have been ruled unlawful, and the ET tried to see whether those beliefs trumped gay rights.

    The courts don't care if you believe in God, Allah, Santa Claus, the Great God Om or none of them. The law says we mustn't treat these minority employees adversely on that account, and that if their membership of that minority makes life in a particular job more difficult it must be somehow justified.

    Casting the right to discriminate against others as essential to one's own liberty is simply wrong. The EAT recognised this when they said the council ought to have done more to protect Ladele against the behaviour of her outraged gay colleagues.

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  10. Have just heard that Ladele has been refused the right to appeal the judgement. So Islington Council has won the case.

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  11. That is good news. Thanks.

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  12. Thank goodness this ridiculous case is finally over!

    This objectionable woman has such strong religious beliefs that she did not, as I understand it, refuse to marry divorcees, and indeed, the fact that she was happy to conduct heterosexual CIVIL marriages means that she was not particularly bothered by marriage being a religious issue as long as the people concerned are not gay.

    I hope more employers are prepared to fight cases involving religious bigots, to ensure that hard won equality is not eroded.

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  13. Well, this is about securarity and the separation of church and state. I am glad we are beyond that and the better for it. I do feel this woman's pain (not on this as I agree with Gay marriage) though in that people feel apart from and not consulted towards the laws (like ancillary relief and most men for example).

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