The Ladele case


Lilian Ladele’s employment tribunal is currently in session. She’s the Islington registrar who refused to carry out civil partnerships on religious grounds.

I fully support employees’ freedom to express their faith provided it does not undermine their ability to do their job. Whether it’s a Christian like Nadia Eweida wearing a cross on the checkin desk, or a Muslim having time and space to pray, that’s a sign of a free society respecting faith.

But Lilian Ladele is wrong to claim that she can do a Registrar’s job but opt out of certain kinds of registration. What next? Refusing to register the children of gay couples? Refusing to register the death of suicides? What about the re-marriage of divorcés? Or mixed-race marriages? All would have been objectionable to different faith groups at different times.

As a Christian myself, I’ve attended civil partnerships as well as civil weddings, to shared the joy of the couple whose celebration it is. Civil ceremonies are a secular, legal event, explicitly non-religious (even Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ was banned for a while) so the new partners are not seeking endorsement by any church. Simply the exercise of their legal rights to a ceremony which it is Ms Ladele’s job to administer.

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22 Comments »

  1. Red Maria said

    Ahem, remarriage of divorcees is still and always will be objectionable to Roman Catholic Christians.

  2. bridgetfox said

    Hello Maria,

    That is my point entirely: whatever their personal religious views, Catholic registrars are not allowed to opt out of conducting civil marriages which include the remarriage of divorces.

    Thank you for reading and commenting,

    Bridget

  3. Eddie said

    Well it seems that our society has no concept of what christianity is, by the previous comments. If i am Christian and make a commitment to follow christ, i have to follow biblical doctrine; bliblical doctrine doesn’t educate a believer to pick and choose or change scripture . Faith in Jesus is simple; which nowadays society doesn’t understand. Jesus has been pushed aside and repackaged to fit within our brand of society. The believer who try’s to follow in Christs footseps is shunned, misrepresented and called all sorts of things; which leaves Christianity redundant, dormant and belittled in our society. A democratic borough like islington should allow Christians to practise their faith,which means refusing to marry same sex couples, refusing to register children of same sex couples etc. Are you offended, are you angry, are you disgusted; don’t be this is what Christianity teaches right and wrong. Biblical doctrine teaches Homosexuality to be an abomination, bringing up children with same sex couples is against Gods will; now understand this, how can it be that a christian has to believe otherwise, would this be comprimising his or her beliefs. Jesus was the complete fullfillment of the law according to bliblical doctrine. He died so that we may have eternal life. He died so that we would have the full benefit of Gods Love, counsel and wisdom. When a person accepts Jesus in their lives, right and wrong is clear their is no ambiguity. Allow Christians to be Christians, don’t repackage Christianity, equal opps is everyones right;even a Christians.

  4. bridgetfox said

    Hello Eddie

    Thank you for commenting, but it won’t surprise you that as a liberal Christian, I don’t agree with you.

    The Gospels call us all to love and mercy, not judgement and hate.

    But the Ladele case is not about theology; it is about whether a Christian can opt out of bits of their job on grounds of faith. Ms Ladele’s job is to administer civil ceremonies, not to make her own judgement beyond the law as to who is entitled to have a civil ceremony. Her salary is paid by taxpayers of all faiths and none who are entitled to be treated equally under the law.

  5. Jason said

    An interesting exchange, and I would agree fully with your last comment – it’s not about theology at all. The job is quite simply a secular one, and her human right to practice her religion isn’t absolute – using it to discriminate is not allowed under human rights protocols and the Human Rights Act. We don’t live in a society governed by faith – we live in one governed by the rule of law, and as an employee of Islington Council she’s bound by the Civil Partnership Act and Sexual Orientation Regulations. She doesn’t have to like that and is fully entitled to get another job.

  6. Quentin said

    The irony is of course that civil ceremonies for either straight or gay couples are not permitted to have references to God or religion in them. In performing his/her duties, a registrar is quite rightly required to leave religion out of it. It seems to me that Ms Ladele is in the wrong job and should seek employment elsewhere.

    I’d like to ask Eddie the question that no fundamentalist Christian ever seems able to answer. The Bible does indeed condemn homosexuality. However, the same passage also condemns wearing clothes of mixed fibres, cutting your hair a certain way, and eating shellfish and pork. Plus, other passages of this same book condone or accept slavery, physical abuse of women, pillaging and murder during wartime, and other things many of us now consider abominable. I would hope that any Christian would say that these other strictures range from being silly to just plain wrong. So why single out homosexuality?

    It’s pure hypocrisy: those who object do so on the grounds of personal prejudice and merely use the Bible to back up their argument because it suits them to do so. I hope and trust that Ms Ladele’s appeal is thrown out on its ear.

    Incidentally, when will we hear the result?

  7. eddie said

    classic responses from all of you, stereotypical actually; the classic “oh i’m a liberal christian and god is a god of love”, others saying this “its not about theology”. I will start by saying i welcome this debate because it proves that jesus is been treated like a stranger in our society;for those who think Gods love is accepting of everything and everyone, you are mistaken or have been ill advised, God cannot be mocked or his love be manipulated. In the book of revelation the sin of homosexuality is considered sexually imoral; sexual immorality also includes fornication adultery, and using animals for sexual pleasure. Now what you have to ask yourself if i the christian am taught biblically not to practise what god is telling me, why then should i condone gay marriage. It is an attack on my religious rights to force me to do something against what i believe. May i add for those of you who think that i am prejudice against homosexuals, clearly try to force the argument in that direction because they don’t want to submit their pride to gods direction and counsel. I can honeslty say that god loves everyone, but to receive the love of god in your life you must repent of your sin turn away from your sinful ways and have faith in god. God loves eveyone, but gods love comes at a price, and only those who follow jesus and not their own ways have relationship with god and have the promise of eternal life.

  8. Quentin said

    OK, Eddie, I’ll level with you here.

    I don’t believe in God. As for Jesus, he sounds like he was a decent enough bloke, and you can’t argue with dictums such as “Love your neighbour” and “do unto others as you would have done to you”. But that’s as far as it goes. As far as I’m concerned, God is on a level with Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. If it gives some people pleasure and comfort to believe in an off-worldly power who is guiding their steps on Earth and offering them a promise of a life after death, then good luck to them, but their fantasies are of little interest to me. You’re free to go to church, pray to your God and believe whatever you like. It’s none of my business. My question to you is: why can you not extend the same courtesy to me?

    You can say that I’m proud or sinful or immoral: you’re entitled to your opinion. But what puzzles me is: why do you care? Is it my eternal soul that you’re desperately trying to save? Well thank you very much, I’ve heard all the warnings, and I’ve made my choice. I believe that when I die, that’s it. I’ll decompose in the earth as countless generations have done before me. If I’m proved wrong and there is a God, then I guess the issues he has with how I’ve lived my life are between him and me. I’m old enough to cope with that, and I guess he is too. You see, I don’t WANT a relationship with God because I really don’t think there is one.

    You say that it is an attack on your religious rights to force you to do something against which you believe. But no one is actually forcing you to do anything. No one is forcing you to sleep with or to marry someone of the same sex, are they?
    Just as no one is forcing Lilian Ladele to work as a registrar. She’s free to seek alternative employment if she is not happy with her job description. It really is as straightforward as that.

    Oh – and if you do have chance to justify the whole mixed fibres/shellfish thing to me, I’d be very interested to read your arguments.

  9. Eddie said

    I care because the love of christ lives within me; you are my neighbour and i desire whats best for you. The world is going in one direction but Jesus is going in another; When Jesus was on earth people hated him loathed him,shunned him ,misreprented him on the other hand many believed in him and loved him. My challenge to you is this, be generous of spirit and kind in heart, allow Jesus to reveal himself to you; when he does, because he will, you will never be the same again; your heart will overflow with the love of the Living God. And then and only then will you understand who lillian ladele is and the reason why she is at this tribunal. Quentin i pray that the love of God will draw you near into his presence, and that he may bless you all of the the days of your life. Oh and by the way in the book of romans chapter 14 it explains your question on shellfish.

  10. Eddie said

    Quentin if you and others have read my last, Calvary chapel palace street westminister is were i worship God; you are more than welcome to visit; the church services start at 11:00, weds at 19:30. You can locate further details on the calvary chapel westminister website http://WWW.calvarylondon.co.uk

  11. Quentin said

    Yeah, you see you’re talking now about the “love” of Christ. And yet I’m detecting a large amount of judgement and a colossal dose of self-righteous fury but precious little love in what you have to say…

    And, er, thanks for your interesting, if somewhat patronising, challenge. I think I’m pretty generous and kind as it is. Really not feeling the need for Jesus to come along and reveal himself in any way to me. I also think I already have a pretty good understanding of who Lillian Ladele is: a woman who no doubt has good intentions but is nevertheless both misguided and delusional.

    Probably won’t be taking you up on the invitation to your chapel either, what with my “atheism” thing.

    Finally, I’ve read up on Romans 14. So if I’ve got this right, it’s basically saying not to take any notice of the earlier rules and regulations. Therefore we shouldn’t regard everything in the Bible as literal truth – because sometimes it gets it wrong. That sort of sums it up, yes? I’m not sure you’ve picked the best passage to back up your argument. And one phrase did kind of jump out at me as well: “Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another”. (Verse 13 in case you wanted to check…)

  12. bridgetfox said

    Gentlemen – I feel slightly as if two strangers are having a fight in my front room! My point is all citizens have an equal right to access to public services including civil ceremonies. Just as atheists working for Islington Council may have to process grants to church youth clubs and funds for church schools, so Christians working as registrars must adminster all the civil ceremonies; it’s part of their job.

  13. eddie said

    Quentin when one has the spirit of god in them the word of god is understood, unfortunately you don’t so thats why romans 14 doesn’t make sense to you. You’ve totally misunderstood it. any way that aside to others i say; is society becoming Christianphobic ? that would be unequal wouldn’t it. I thought we lived in a democracy, a place were everyone is tolorated and able to live by what they believe. Why is that society promotes some minorities and not others, why is their this sense of political communism thought control. Society says , you can’t say this you can’t say that. You can’t mention what you disagree with, or else your sacked and made an example. Oh dear were are we going as a society; fleeting from one extreme to the other. Well he/she who is not ashamed of God, and has the courage to stand up for what god says and intructs has my vote of confidence, and my full blessing. Carry on miss ladele i support you, society closes the door on truth but god opens the door for you. God bless you.

  14. Quentin said

    Hi Bridget

    I apologise if you feel the discussion is getting a little over-heated. I’m afraid I think it was inevitable really. This issue provokes such strong feelings on both sides of the argument. If you’d rather we stopped posting our thoughts, do say and I for one will certainly respect that.

    I admit we’ve got a little side-tracked from the initial matter at hand, but to be fair, I didn’t want to let Eddie get away unchallenged with some of the outrageous comments he’s been making about Society’s slide into depravity!

    Now Eddie,

    Your last posting really does take hysterical hyperbole too far. No one’s policing Lillian Ladele’s thoughts or telling her she has no right to hold her primitive views, obnoxious though they may be to some of us. She’s perfectly at liberty to believe that gay unions between two consenting, loving adults are somehow evil or sinful. The problem is that holding these beliefs means that she is unable to fulfil the duties set out in her job description. It would set a very dangerous precedent were she to be excused these duties merely because she holds a strong set of convictions. What if another employee were to assert in an equally decisive fashion that she could not condone the marriages of people who were of different colours or races? Should her prejudices be pandered to also?
    What if someone was adamant that fairies at the bottom of their garden had told them that people with ginger hair were abominable and that she could not countenance their unions? (Yes, this does sound ludicrous – although admittedly not much more ludicrous than living one’s life according to the stipulations of an ancient manuscript written by primitive people over two thousand years ago!)

    Where on earth are employers supposed to draw the line once someone is permitted to opt out of obligatory aspects of their job for reasons of faith? Once again, I reiterate the point: if Ms Ladele disapproves so heartily of a major part of her job, she is perfectly free to say so: to speak out as she has done and then to seek employment in another sphere.

    Back to Romans 14 briefly. OK – so I misunderstood it. I don’t suppose you’d care to enlighten me then? It still seems to me that Christians pick and choose which parts of the Bible most suit their agenda. Telling me that I don’t understand it because “I don’t have the spirit of God in me” just seems a bit of a cop out. It’s a bit feeble of you to just give me a Bible reference without elaborating on exactly why it’s relevant to your case, don’t you think? As I said before, its main theme does seem to be “Thou shalt not pass judgement on another man”. Which under the circumstances, is pretty ironic, don’t you think?

  15. eddie said

    The whole point is, she is not at perfect liberty to believe in God; if she had perfect liberty islington council wouldn’t be taking her to tribunal, you can’t force people to do things against their will, you can’t make someone choose over their right to work or their religious beliefs. Imagine yourself to be in her situation; working 15yrs for the council and then told your sacked because of your religious beliefs. Its religious discrimination, its out of order. You expect her to leave her job and find another one. Christians are being marginalised, forced out and not allowed to practice their faith. Christianity is not just 1 day a week; its 24hrs and its daily. This woman is trying to follow christ, islington council is forcing her to choose. I understand other registrars who are like minded have been exempted in their councils for carrying out gay marriage. This is reasuring news, at last a ray of hope for equal opportunities; equal ops EQUAL FOR ALL.

  16. Quentin said

    Actually if the reports I’ve read are accurate, Ladele is taking Islington Council to tribunal – and not the other way round.

    As a commentator has pointed out, this case ultimately will boil down to whose rights are considered more important: a gay couple’s right not to be discriminated against for entering into a perfectly legal arrangement – or a Christian’s right to actively discriminate against gay people due to her antiquated belief system. Whatever the outcome, one section of society will be deeply unhappy.

    “You can’t make someone choose their right to work over their religious beliefs” you say. No one is denying her right to work – merely pointing out that given her beliefs, this particular post is clearly an inappropriate one for her to hold. She has made that decision – no one else. It’s unfortunate, but the fact that she has held the job for 15 years is irrelevant. People’s job descriptions change over time. The point is that she believes she is no longer capable of doing her job as it stands now.

    I find it interesting how fundamental Christians find it hard to engage in debates of this nature. You’ve not responded to any of the points in my previous post regarding how far employers should be expected to cater to different individual’s prejudices. Your fall-back position is always to invoke your fantasy figure in the sky, rather than discuss things rationally.

    And I’m afraid that I’m still none the wiser on the inconsistencies of religion when it comes to picking and choosing the rules by which one is supposed to live. One is forced to the conclusion that it is nothing to do with God. The reason (fundamentalist) Christians think it’s OK to eat shellfish and pork, but not to have a gay relationship is because the latter is personally distasteful to them, where the former is not. Which can only lead observers to conclude that far from being a religion of love, Christianity is one of judging others and of hypocrisy.

  17. Quentin said

    One more thing.

    Presumably, if Lillian Ladele is such a devout Christian, then over the past 15 years she has never once married anyone who has committed adultery or had sex outside marriage.

    If she has done so, then she has surely already condoned lifestyles or actions which the Bible condemns. And if this is the case, why on earth should we take her objections seriously now or indeed respect her religion and her beliefs at all?

  18. Chris said

    Hi Bridget
    I have just happened on your blog in a Google search on the results of the Ladele case. I understood that the judgment was due sometime in June so unless the tribunal is in deadlock it has one more day. But I may have been misinformed. I certainly hope the tribunal is not in deadlock and gives a clear, just and decisive ruling.

    I was interested to read the debate between Quentin and Eddie. It shows the problem with trying to conduct an argument when people are not matched equally in their use of logic and intellectual rigour. Whether or not you agree with Quentin you’d have to agree that he argued his case clearly and logically and with courtesy. I wish I could say the same of Eddie but unfortunately people with such absolutist views who think that they have to do no more than state their beliefs (and prejudices), their chosen version of God’s Truth. Eddie has something in common with a lot of fundamentalist with strong views; he seems to confuse assertion with argument; he does nothing to try answer Quentin’s points and thinks Bible quotes trump use of reason.

    I certainly agree with the view that unless Miss Ladele has been rigorously consistent in refusing to marry anyone who has a still-living spouse she hasn’t a leg to stand on. She can’t seem to see that she is not only reading her Bible selectively as regards to abominations of Leviticus, she is also selective in which kinds of sexual sin she’s prepared to condone. Once you do that you are not so much following God’s Word as choosing those bits which shore up your personal prejudices or the corporate bigotry of much of evangelical Christianity today.

    Thanks for allowing me into your living room for a while.

    Chris

  19. James said

    Sense, at last.

    From: http://www.christian.org.uk/news/20080710/christian-registrar-wins-discrimination-case/

    “A Christian registrar from Islington who was bullied and threatened with the sack because of her religious beliefs on same sex unions has succeeded in her claims of unlawful discrimination by the council.

    In its unanimous judgment, the employment tribunal found that Miss Lillian Ladele was directly discriminated against by Islington Council after she asked to be allowed not to perform civil partnership registrations.

    Miss Ladele was supported by her Legal team, James Dingemans QC and Mark Jones of Ormerods solicitors. The case was financed by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.

    The highly significant ruling confirmed that the various acts of direct discrimination committed against Miss Ladele by Islington Council on the grounds of her religious belief included: failing to consider her for promotion; deciding to discipline her and threatening her with dismissal; concluding she had committed gross misconduct; failing to redress allegations that she was “homophobic” and labelling and treating her as homophobic; disregarding her concerns about her treatment; and failing to apply its anti-discrimination policies to gay colleagues who were mistreating her.
    …”

  20. Quentin said

    Just to return to this thread briefly.

    Now the facts of the case are all finally out in the open, we can reflect more accurately on the details of this complicated and important judgement. It seems that there are two distinct issues here. One which the Tribunal addressed successfully, and the other where they seem to have got it pretty wrong.

    There seems little doubt that Lillian Ladele was treated pretty appallingly by Islington Council, particularly by her manager, Helen Mendez-Child. Ms Mendez-Child displayed childish, petty and vindictive behaviour, whilst ignoring any kind of legitimate disciplinary procedure. The Tribunal therefore had little option but to rule that Ladele was indeed bullied and victimised by her employers.

    However, they were far less rigorous in examining the wider issues raised by the case, or, regardless of how badly the Council dealt with it, whether there was a legitimate argument for requiring Ladele carry out civil partnerships.

    An expert in employment law has blogged about this far more successfully and with greater knowledge than I have here:
    http://blog.usefullyemployed.co.uk/2008/07/13/registrars-religious-discrimination-2/

    It’s rather dense and written in legalese, but there seems little doubt that the Tribunal’s judgement is flawed, and that Islington Council have excellent grounds for an appeal, which I gather is what they intend to do.

  21. Quentin said

    I forgot to mention.

    The case highlights how urgently our newly acquired “religious discrimination” legislation needs to be rethought.

    Apparently, according to the law, the tribunal has no right to question the consistency of Lillian Ladele’s religious views. Therefore the fact that she had a child out of wedlock, or – in the past – has married divorcees, adulterers or straight couples “living in sin” is actually irrelevant. She is not required to have logical religious views (a statement which of course you could argue is oxymoronic anyway). The only stipulation appears to be that her beliefs are “strongly held”, not whether they stand up to any kind of rigours of argument or are logically or consistently applied. So mine and Chris’ earlier points about her apparent hypocrisy in applying her beliefs are not relevant.

    Any kind of legislation founded purely on the basis of someone’s strength of belief is surely ludicrous and deserves to be righted as soon as possible…

  22. Quentin said

    True sense at last!

    To return briefly – for the sake of posterity and assuming this blog is archived, I just wanted to record that Islington Council’s appeal against the original employment tribunal judgement was successful, that Lillian Ladele has been denied the right to appeal and ordered to pay all costs.

    Interestingly, the media have been far less interested in reporting this development than they were in Ladele’s initial success. In fact, a quick google of “Lillian Ladele” would give the assumption that she had actually won.

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