Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Islington registrar loses appeal

Updated Thursday morning

The Court of Appeals (Civil Division) has today dismissed the appeal of Lilian Ladele from the Employment Appeal Tribunal decision of December 2008, which found in favour of the London Borough of Islington.

The full text of today’s judgment can be found here. A printable version here is in .rtf format.

Initial press reports:

Press Association Registrar loses discrimination case

Reuters Christian registrar loses gay wedding appeal

Islington Tribune Registrar who refused to carry out civil partnership ceremonies loses appeal

Ekklesia Partnerships registrar loses case in Court of Appeal

BBC Christian registrar loses same-sex partnership case

Updates

Press Association Pressure groups welcome same-sex discrimination ruling

Symon Hill Cif belief A judgment Christians should celebrate

Christian Institute Court rejects appeal in Christian registrar case

Christian Concern for our Nation Court of Appeal rules against Christian Registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 1:06pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

This is good news. If you have a moral objection to alcohol and won't deal in it, don't go and work in a cocktail bar.

Posted by: toby forward on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 1:54pm GMT

toby, What if you work in a library and one day it decides to open a cocktain lounge? It's not as black and white as you suggest. You might not approve of her stance, but the fact is that she was forced out of her job after her job was changed, without (as far as I know) any consultation or consideration for her.

How many civil partnerships did she prevent from taking place?

Posted by: Peter B on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 4:39pm GMT

This is good news. If you have a moral objection to alcohol and won't deal in it, don't go and work in a cocktail bar.

Posted by: toby forward on Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Yes and also I wouldnt want a person with such publicaly announced views anywhere near me on such a happy day. She has shot herself in the foot.

Mind you the chap we did have in Newham, was unimpressive and got our names the wrong way round -- yes two names of the same gender do call for a little extra care - making a note of them and finding out whose who FIRST maybe ? !

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 5:21pm GMT


Toby - she didn't go anywhere - her employers changed the core doctrine of their organisation. The issue is around their unwillingness to accommodate those who find the change difficult.

Now where have we heard that before?

OV

Posted by: ordinary vicar on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 5:21pm GMT

'The Christian Institute, which has bankrolled Ms Ladele through two employment tribunals and the most recent High Court hearing, said it would appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.'

So the usual suspects are behind this as we might have expected. I wonder where all their money comes from. Staff employed by local authorities, who by law should be delivering services equally to all their service users, cannot pick and chose those who they wish to serve. Personal Christian belief should not be used to discriminate in the public realm. I don't care a jot what Ms Ladele thinks or does at home but in the public service she should abide by its rules.

This is very good news and the law has been upheld twice, I trust that the new Supreme Court will agree.

The stance adopted by the so-called 'Christian' Institute, as has been pointed out, is completely in conflict with the Irish EA stance on civil partnerships there. A house divided perhaps?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 5:53pm GMT

Thank you, Toby Forward! If someone disapproves of abortion, don't work for a clinic that offers them. If someone disapproves of birth control, don't work for a pharmacist/chemist/apothecary that dispenses it. If someone is offended by civil partnerships or marriages for gay and lesbian couples, don't work in the registrar's office.
Lord Neuberger said: "It appears to me that, however much sympathy one may have with someone such as Ms Ladele, [...] the legislature has decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy, such as the United Kingdom, include outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of sexual orientation, subject only to very limited exceptions."
Bravo, Lord Neuberger, and thank you, Court of Appeals! Here in the US, in the past, sincerely held religious beliefs have been used by business owners, government officials, college trustees, etc., to discriminate against blacks, Jews, Roman Catholics, GLBT people, and others. If you open your business to the public, you must serve the public. If you are a civil servant, you must be civil to all.
To me, this is totally different from businesses refusing to hire someone because of their race or religion.
Unfortunately, some legislatures here are putting in “conscience” clauses so that people CAN discriminate against women seeking birth control or GLBT people or couples seeking services. I find such clauses vile and condescending. As a government clerk or a store employee, it is not your job to show your superiority to others by refusing to provide lawful services or to refuse to sell certain goods that the business owners decide to sell

Posted by: peterpi on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 6:22pm GMT

first they came for.....

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 6:40pm GMT

For the record, I think this is the right decision, but I'm troubled at some of thes comments.

In Thomas Cranmer's prayer of intercession at Holy Communion he urges us to pray for those in auhtority that they may 'truly and indifferently minister justice'. Notwithstanding the changes in language between then and now I think it serves as a warning against righteous smugness.

I think the judgement has managed to do this really well, expressing a primary sympathy for the employee but upholding the claims of the law as set down by the legislature.

Those of you who are crowing about this verdict in such unpastoral terms haven't managed that and you should question your strength of feeling about it; it seems to me that you feel that you have justification to despise those you disagree with.

Can you *really* envisage no change in your own circumstances that would bring your beliefs into direct and personally costly conflict with the civil authorities? If you really can't you're very, very lucky, or you've already sold out to the principle that the state is never likely to be wrong.

OV

Posted by: ordinary vicar on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 7:21pm GMT

Having read through a fair amount of the judgement it seems that these "anti-discrimination" laws have been constructed so as to take no account of the right of employees to express their religion. Yet that is an international Human Right! Everyone is allowed to express their religion, and that right should only be restricted as far as is actually necessary to protect other people's rights, and then only proportionately restricted. ie Someone's religion might say that someone who commits a crime against them should be executed, but it is proportionate to restrict the right to express that belief, in action and threats at least, to protect the right to life of the offender. But in this case there is *no* suggestion that the access of gay people to a civil partnership was being restricted at all by Ms Ladelle. Noone would have even known! Her right to religious freedom was restricted without an objective cause, never mind proportionality!

It seems that these "Equality" regulations completely and disproportionately ignore people's Religious Rights. But it's not the same the other way round... if you tried to argue in court that you hadn't discriminate against an employee because they are gay, only because they insisted on not speaking or acting as if they weren't, I don't think you would win your case!

Equality? Shome mishtake shurely!!

Posted by: davidwh on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 7:23pm GMT

'Ms Ladele, who lives in Skinner Street, Finsbury and continues to work in Islington Town Hall registering births and deaths.'

So she hasn't been forced out of a job, she has been given someething else where her 'conscience' doesn't conflict with her duties. Sounds to me as if the local authority have bent over backwards to accomodate her.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 7:30pm GMT

Good, I thought the analogy would be put to the test, and, of course, it has weaknesses. So, try this way:

Peter B. Suppose she worked in a library that refused to lend books to black people, because black people might learn something that made them uppity? Then, the rule was changed and she had to lend to black people and she refused?

ordinary vicar: The same goes for people who would not accept the post-aparteid regime in South Africa, or people who worked at the lunch counters in Alambama, or the bus driver who would only drive the bus if the black people sat at the back. Change, or go. I am unapologetic about that.

Ed Tomlinson. Do you really expect that Inclusive Church or Changing Attitude are going to knock on your door at three o' clock tomorrow morning and drag you off to torture you? Is Una Kroll going to take your family away to a death camp? Because that's the context of the quote you give. Get real.

Posted by: toby forward on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 7:41pm GMT

The ruling has to be correct as a statement of the law.

This is *civil* partnership (the clue's in the name), recorded by a publicly funded Local Authority, as decided by Parliament.

Giving personal exemptions harms the employer and other employees materially, making it harder to deliver the publicly funded law-mandated service and imposing undue restrictions on others (no you can't take annual leave that weekend as we've got a Christian on duty so someone has to cover for all the people they don't want to register, can you come back next week for your big day - Ladele's on duty and she doesn't want to meet your needs).

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 7:54pm GMT

What would have happened if she had won, and a Catholic registrar refused to marry divorced persons?

Posted by: Robert Ian williams on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:03pm GMT

To refuse to do ones job, cancels the employment.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:10pm GMT

Ordinary Vicar and Fr Ed:

If I recall correctly, the press has been full of reports that Ms Ladele herself has a child by a man to whom she is not married. In which case, she can hardly pose as a martyr to traditional Christian family values without being open to the charge of hypocrisy, n'est-ce pas?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:24pm GMT

'her employers changed the core doctrine of their organisation'

Excuse me, but when was the refusal to sanction same-sex relationships a core doctorine of the registration department?

Besides, did Ms Ladele have an understanding not to marry any couple of whom one had been divorced for reasons other than adultery? If so, she would have had to sit out a lot of weddings...and yet Scripture is far clearer on this point than on issues of homosexuality

'first they came for'...this is a highly inappropriate comment. She has not been arrested, or (as far as I know) fired. If Ms Ladele conducts a civil partnership registration she has no more condoned homosexuality that if she, working as a hotel receptionist, booked in a same gender couple. She is not compromising her religious beliefs.

If her views were indulged, where next? Muslim registrars refusing to marry a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man?

Of course, if Ms Ladele resigns her job, she won't be unemployed. There is a hotel in Liverpool where she will be welcome I'm sure...

Posted by: Sam on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:26pm GMT

first they came for.....

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Tuesday, 15 Dec

.... the Jews, the gypsies, the 'homosexuals'--

bigots do not fear for their lives though.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:35pm GMT

When president Obama's parents were married about half the states in the USA forbade inter-racial marriage (whatever they thought that meant). Suppose a justice of the peace moved from Alabama or Mississipi to a state that did not have that ban and simply refused 'for conscious sake' to marry a balck and white couple? I think this ruling is a very good one and also a correct interpretation of civil service, which does not (or should not) depend on the personal opinion of the public employee.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:42pm GMT

It is on record, in the public domain, that Ms Ladele has not always been so punctillious in upholding / practicing traditional Christian matrimonial tenets herself.

I love the selectivity of self-proclaimed 'traditional' beleivers.

Archbishop Carey was agin divorce and 're-mariage' until it came to his own persoanl sphere. Ms Ladele is agin marriage for gays,but felt able to start a family herself while single.

It strikes me as really 'pick n mix' and post-modern, but the logic of this praxis must surely be something like 'live and let live'.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:44pm GMT

Yes, Peter B., but as you say on your web :--

'I’d rather you just do what you’re told!'

I suspect this is what the 'Christian' Institute and Lawyers Christian campaigning group require of us all -- and especially lesbians, gays and our supporters

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:49pm GMT

"I don't care a jot what Ms Ladele thinks or does at home but in the public service she should abide by its rules." - Richard Ashby, on Tusday -

This sounds eminently reasonable. If Ms Ladele's principles are so rigid as to prevent her from carrying out her Public Service duties, she ought to either resign or find another post - more compatible with her religious beliefs.

This, after all, is what has happened with some of the homophobic and misogynistic Anglicans whose consciences are so deeply troubled by TEC's determination to both preach and practise the inclusivity of Christ in the gospels.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:53pm GMT

"Yet that is an international Human Right! Everyone is allowed to express their religion"
- David WH, on Tusday -

Yes, maybe, but allowed by WHOM? If you were in a strict Muslim country, you are not always *allowed* to express your faith as a Christian.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 9:18pm GMT

Lots of nonsense being talked about this. Essentially, its her job to do what is required of her and to serve the public. If she can't do that then she is in the wrong job. She marries lots of couples who live together and I thought the fundies are the ones who keep sating CP's aren't marriages anyway - so what's the issue?

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 9:25pm GMT

People's religious rights do not include the right to discriminate against others....

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 9:28pm GMT

"You might not approve of her stance, but the fact is that she was forced out of her job after her job was changed...."

Her job didn't change, just the nature of the people she was required to serve in that job. Let's say it's 1965 in Atlanta, Georgia, and suddenly all the lunch counters are required to "accommodate" their waitresses who don't want to serve the new clientele...namely, black folks.

Somehow, I don't think that would have gone over too well.

"Toby - she didn't go anywhere - her employers changed the core doctrine of their organisation. The issue is around their unwillingness to accommodate those who find the change difficult."

OK--I'm a clerk in a grocery that doesn't sell beer. I'm happy with that, as I think alcohol is a bad thing. New owners come in and announce "We're selling beer." Should they have to "accommodate" me...or just tell me "You can either wait on the customers who buy beer or find another job"? I rather think it's the latter.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 9:48pm GMT

I think the principle here is that the right of the couples to a partnership ceremony trumps the registrar's right to deny these legal services because of her conscience. It's an issue that has hit the courts in the US, in the case of contraception and the instance when a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription for sake of conscience. The particulars have to do with the "Plan B" after-the-fact contraceptive. What happens if the pharmacy is in a rural district with no nearby alternatives? I think it is a serious issue and there needs clarity that there is more than one set of rights at stake.
Lou, Sunnyvale CA USA

Posted by: Lou Poulain on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 10:40pm GMT

Very disappointing for any who believe in Christian conscience. Martin Luther declared My conscience is captive to the Word of God.
It also poses the question for all as to what is sin ?

Posted by: Raymond Stewart on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 11:11pm GMT

I did just want to emphasise this is about *registration* as a civil 'act' and is quite different from a sacrament.

The role of registrar is to register civil status on behalf of the Local Authority and the (civil) registrar isn't personally blessing or praying for the couple or giving their personal imprimatur or benediction as if they were a state employed, self licensed, minister of religion.

That being so only animus against a specific group can be a reason for the refusal to carry out one's duties.

Unless of course you say I'm a Christian/Jew/Muslim/Hindu or whatever and I will only do civil acts that I personally approve of. Which is ludicrous.

The consequence would be to remove registrars altogether and allow churches to register, births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships and presumably to allow same sex marriages as well.

The taxpayers of Islington and elsewhere do have an expectation that the people employed by them will do the job they employ them for without providing a lesser service to a specific group.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 11:14pm GMT

All things being equal I believe I might be happy to have Ms Ladele pick and choose those she was willing to marry.

The problem is that things are not equal and her case is being used by those who would make their points at her expense, I am sorry for her.

Things are not equal because gay people may not marry. The government decided to invent a whole new legal contract for same sex couples and in a cruel twist made it legal to contract that relationship everywhere EXCEPT in a religious building or within a religious context. Ministers of religion are barred from presiding at the signing of the contract. Even the Bishop of Oxford said in the House of Lords debate that it was lamentable if not a serious flaw that religion was not being allowed to embrace this important new human right.

Thus seriously hampered in comparison to marriage here in the UK ONLY Registrars may preside over these civil partnerships in secular buildings registered for that purpose.

Perhaps in a world of perfect equality where same sex couples were not denied access to a religious context for the making of their contract then Ms Ladele's scrupples might be allowed.

Finally I find the protests of Ms Ladele somewhat strange. As a Registrar it is her duty to ensure that no prayer or mention of God or religious symbolism should taint the secular celebration of marriage over which she presides - indeed registry offices are the only place in the country where I cannot offer prayer, venerate a cross or bless! It doesn't seem a place for her Christian lifestyle to flourish!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 11:19pm GMT

Mark
"But in this case there is *no* suggestion that the access of gay people to a civil partnership was being restricted at all by Ms Ladelle. Noone would have even known! Her right to religious freedom was restricted without an objective cause, never mind proportionality!"

In the small register office I got civil partnered there is only ever one registrar on duty on any day. At the very least, all the registrars employed at that register office would be inconvenienced if they had to keep changing their working pattern to accommodate one person's belief that her religious views are more important than the country's laws, or asking the couples to choose a less convenient date so it doesn’t clash with her roster.

Ordinary Vicar - I agree, there are many instances I can imagine where my conscience would suddenly be so tested if a job description changed that I would have to accept the consequences. The point is, though, that my response cannot be to force my employer to make exceptions for me. If I truly place my religious beliefs above the requirements of the job, I have to leave.

There seems to be an increasing tendency among the religious righteous to demand exceptions, exemptions and special provisions for themselves while staying in the snug safety of the despised mainstream of society. That is emphatically not what religious belief should be all about. Genuine martyrs to their faith are made of different stuff.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 8:33am GMT

Raymond Stewart
"Very disappointing for any who believe in Christian conscience."
@Raymond - not at all. This Christian conscience would have been sorely disappointed if religiously sanctioned discrimination was to be allowed to trump the right of all citizens to equal and indifferent treatment. Our God is no respecter of persons - and nor should we be.
She is still employed by the Islington Registrars Office apparently - so they have gone to some considerable trouble to help her keep her employment. So Ladele is ok, and Islington are doing the right thing - and this will stop anyone pulling a religious trump card out of their hats at any time over anything they don't like.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 10:02am GMT

"It also poses the question for all as to what is sin?" - Raymond Stewart, on Tuesday -

It reminds me of the scriptural account of Jesus being accused of 'SINNING' when he healed a person of the Sabbath!. I guess we all have to decide for ourselves exactly what is 'sin' in a particular circumstance. No easy answers here.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 10:04am GMT

Having witnessed the lavish, exclusivist, self-interested and self-perpetuating lifestyles within the boundaries of one cathedral precinct recently, it comes as no surprise that there is not more active interest in the down-trodden, dispossessed and marginalised in our society - whether in the material sense as with those sleeping rough on the streets of Canterbury - or in the spiritual sense with faithful gay couples being denied the basic sacraments.

But there is hope - as promised in the Magnificat.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 10:57am GMT

All the angst about duty to society vs. moral duty to God is absolute smokescreen. Those using it to compare liberals to Nazis - Mr. Tomlinson - are doing a bit of hypocritical stage-acting to play false martyr!

The issue has been solved for them for some time by Paul:

Romans 13:1-2

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

The rabbi has spoken.

Indeed, Paul goes on, at length, about the ruling authorities bearing "the sword" at God's Will to strike at the rebels. Apparently, Ms. Ladele got the sword and didn't like it.

What's Scripture for the liberal "goose" is Scripture for the conservative "gander."

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 11:36am GMT

I am convinced that the 'orthodox' postion on human sexuality was summed up succintly and graciously by Nick Holtam in the interview he did with Diarmaid MacCulloch in the 'History of Christianity' series. The bible, he said, was clear that people were called to 'loving, faithful, honest relationships' with each other, and that the kind of homosexual activity that was condemned in the bible was not that. It's a most helpful distinction. We are called to loving, honest, faithful human relationships. That's the orthodox position. Why the Registrar could not act in accordance with that without making her own judgements about the natore of other peoples relationships seems very unclear; and very un-Christian.

Posted by: Canon Andrew Godsall on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 11:57am GMT

Ed
An employee of the state is being asked to comply with its laws, and you see this as persecution?
Have you completely lost your sense of proportion?

What would you say to Christians in Muslim countries who genuinely fear for their lives if they live their faith openly - "I understand your difficulty, we too suffer because we have to obey the law in order to keep our jobs, and if we disagree they have the nerve to move us to a different department"?

Your sense of injury is astonishing.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 12:11pm GMT

It's a silly thought, perhaps, but how do we relate this judgement to the right of a GP not to prescribe artificial contraception to a patient? We had this situation in my last parish, and the GP practice made it clear that Dr X would not offer contraceptive services, whereas their colleagues would.

Any thoughts?

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 12:14pm GMT

And now the definition of Jewish identity has been found racially discriminatory.

This equality legislation is quite efficient.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 12:25pm GMT

Martin
"Perhaps in a world of perfect equality where same sex couples were not denied access to a religious context for the making of their contract then Ms Ladele's scrupples might be allowed."

But only if you assume that all same sex couples have some kind of religious background.
It should be possible for agnostics and atheists to enter into a civil partnership without having to take the various religious beliefs of various potential registrars from a multitude of faiths into account.

It just cannot be right that the consequences of religious belief should be borne by those who don't share them, not by those who do hold them.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 1:41pm GMT

In the hierarchy of rights, if you will, the right to contract is at least as high as the right to personal religious beliefs. The _expression_ of religious belief is not, however, unconditionally recognized, in particular in places where the expression of a religious belief conflicts with some other person's rights. "Religion" is, after all, a lifestyle choice, and there is significant evidence that religious orientation is fluid and subject to change or conversion. There is no apparent reason that the right to hold internal and subjective religious beliefs should trump objective external rights such as the ability to form a civil contract.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 3:06pm GMT

>>>OK--I'm a clerk in a grocery that doesn't sell beer. I'm happy with that, as I think alcohol is a bad thing. New owners come in and announce "We're selling beer." Should they have to "accommodate" me...or just tell me "You can either wait on the customers who buy beer or find another job"? I rather think it's the latter.

That is an excellent analogy, and I would like to change it a bit to illustrate what is actually happening here:

The new owners of the store respect your convictions regarding alcohol, so they offer to let you work in a department, like the pharmacy or bakery, where you will not come into contact with beer.

But that is not good enough for you. You demand that the store stop selling beer and then sue them when they refuse.

Posted by: JPM on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 3:08pm GMT

Find the various comments interesting. As my partner , who is a civil servant stated, you are employed to do your duty, within the remit of the government regulations, and support the public. Your faith is a private matter, as is your lifestyle.

This women, whatever her lifestyle, is being used by the religious right, regardless of her feelings, and status within a government department. The religious right need to be told by government, and judiciary, hands off this person, you are bullying her and be warned their antics are reprehensible both in law and religion.

Fr John

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 4:19pm GMT

Ms L and her conscience and the situation are all transitional phenomena. Coming from somewhere else previously, and headed off towards another somewhere else ethically and theologically. One of the unsolved intellectual hindrances of just repeating the various conflicting and alternative set-closed positions along the way is just that nothing permits us to capture this foundational sense of transition, development, change very well in our accounts of people, places, and how the ethics or theology is alive at the given moment.

I note that conservative-traditionalist posters favor static manners. Nothing has ever changed, can change, or will change when it comes to queer folks. (Except of course that the queer folks can allegedly change into straight folks, just by construing themselves via traditionalistic static categories whose main effect is to squeeze-freeze dry the very queer life out of them, turning them into instant mix godfearing straight folks.)

The nasty hot animus underlying Ms. L's conscience is more to the point, here. It is not a pretty ethical sight, all on its own; though clearly she seeks to package wrap it all up as something holy and shining. Problem is, perhaps? Ms. L and her Puritannically conscientious sort will hardly ever be satisfied by just refusing to do the clerical-administrative tasks related to civil partnerships; she is basically hostile to queer folks and having to have anything much to do with any of them. We can probably rest assured, given the context of Christian Institute backing, that if she got her way on this point, additional refusal points would logically follow, all strictly according to Puritannical conservative believer conscience.

How far distant is far enough to safely avoid contamination by all the innately toxic queer stuff, given how deeply awful it is supposed to be? What distance explains the contrast between this dark dirtiness and the wonderful squishy-tantalizing straight stuff so often idealized by conservative believers? The more distance, the better? I have yet to hear a traditionalist narrative that did not let the heterosexual by definition occupy all the human spaces, while assigning the homosexual to sub-human and non-human domains. A Ptolemaic cosmology of sex, always with only straight people at the center of that cosmos?

Ms L is just the sort of neighbor who would rather see queer folks utterly neglected in life; rather than risk dirtying her own especially holy straight hands by contact or proximity.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 7:42pm GMT

Christian conscience is indeed sacrosanct (even if at times oddly misguided) but Ms Ladele isn't in prison and is still in employment so she isn't being coerced into anything, although she s being prevented from dictating to her employer what she will and won't do in a way that worsens the service it provides.

People have died for their beliefs, suffered for their beliefs.

In this case someone had to move from one job to another when they didn't wish to exercise the duties associated with the post - the beastliness of it all.

Parliament passes a law which I don't recognise - I want to carry on living under the old laws as if the Bible teaches us to respect the higher powers when they tack to our particular whim. On the respect for authority we need badly to get back to scriptural basics.

The religion of Ms Ladele's backers never acknowledged rights of conscience for LGBT people. They wish therefore to set up Christians (and a particular type of Christian) as an empowered super-citizen with more inherent rights than others in society so they can mount a homophobic insurrection to gut every piece of equality legislation in existence.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 10:40pm GMT

I have no problem with people wanting to maintain some sort of ritual purity and refusing contact with others. We have those and tolerate them in the Hasidic community and others. That's fine. What they have to realize is that there are sacrifices that come with maintaining that separateness.

What these "orthodox" christians are doing is trying to get all the benefits of a modern, advanced, pluralistic society while contributing little or nothing to that pluralistic ethos and demanding an unprecedented level of deference from both the individuals and institutions that enable them to live a comfortable life.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 4:55am GMT

Mynster
But your GP analogy isn't appropriate here. Your GP was refusing to provide a service to all of his or her patients without discrimminating against a particular group of patients.

This registrar was perfectly happy to marry some people but not others.
Using your example, we'd be looking at a GP who gives contraception to married women but not to single ones.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 8:45am GMT

--I'm a clerk in a grocery that doesn't sell beer. I'm happy with that, as I think alcohol is a bad thing. New owners come in and announce "We're selling beer." Should they have to "accommodate" me...or just tell me "You can either wait on the customers who buy beer or find another job"?

I think this analogy is as wrong as the GP one.
We are not talking about someone who has a moral objection to a service per se (marriage, in this case), but who has a moral objection to some groups of people availing themselves of that service.

In a pluralist, democratic society, that just is not an option, neither legally nor morally.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 10:07am GMT

Erika:

How do you feel about the lunch counter analogy?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 11:11am GMT

Pat,
Lunch counter?
Did I miss that one?
In principle, I think the situation is quite clear.
No-one can be compelled to participate in any life-or-death activity they cannot approve of, like abortion or assisted dying. And it's appropriate that doctors are able to continue to work in their daily working environment without carrying out abortions.
All other moral problems that arise out of religious or other sensibilities, when they’re being acted out in the public sphere that’s equally shared by everyone, cannot be considered in law. Every adult member of a democratic society has the same rights to participate in the law making process, and every adult member is then compelled to live by the final decision. That is one of the core fundamentals of how democracies organise themselves, and even if you consider democracy to be only the least objectionable of all impossible systems, opting out of that system is extremely serious. I don’t generally like thin end of the wedge arguments, but it certainly applies here.

We really cannot live in a society where individuals have a legal right to opt out of the political system that makes the laws, rules and regulations because they don't happen to agree with them.

That does not mean an individual register office might not be willing to accommodate the moral scruples of an individual, or that a team of doctors cannot help out a colleague who does not want to prescribe contraception.

But opting out cannot be a legal right.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 12:40pm GMT

I think the most cogent argument has to be whether or not this Registrar has ever refused to offer a civil ceremony in which a divorced person remarries. After all the majority of churches will accept that such couples are actually married in the fullest sense, which is not true of the status accorded by the majority of churches to those who enter Civil Partnerships.

Has she been consistent in espousing Biblical fundamentalist positions around the issue of marriage or has she chosen solely to express such an opinion in relation to same-sex relationships?

Posted by: Commentator on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 3:47pm GMT

Recently, it became news that a justice of the peace in Louisiana was refusing to marry mixed-race couples because he had decided that those types of relationships don't work. There was an outcry and he--rightly, I think--resigned his position.

A government official isn't entitled to use his or her personal preferences, even those informed by conscience, in performing official functions. If the official reaches the point where official duty would cause the official to violate his or her Conscience, it's time to resign, not claim that "I can override the law."

Posted by: Paul Davison on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 4:57pm GMT

More food for thought....or to chew on:

What about a Quaker who got drafted into the military? This was big issue in the US during WWII.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 5:03pm GMT

Choirboy
That depends entirely on what the law of the land is.
Don't forget, we're not talking about whether it's acceptable for a Quaker to be against war, or a Christian against civil partnerships.
We're only talking about whether people should have the right to legal opt outs of the law of the country they live in.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 7:26pm GMT

"What about a Quaker who got drafted into the military? This was big issue in the US during WWII."

Official COs (of whatever belief-system) have never claimed to be *above the law*, choirboy. They have just agreed to serve their country in a *non-military* capacity (sometimes in ways that are as dangerous as the military in wartime---such as those who volunteered for medical experimentation. Some died as a result.)

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 8:02pm GMT

Erika:

I made the lunch counter analogy in the same post I initially made the beer analogy. To wit:

"Let's say it's 1965 in Atlanta, Georgia, and suddenly all the lunch counters are required to 'accommodate' their waitresses who don't want to serve the new clientele...namely, black folks.

Somehow, I don't think that would have gone over too well."

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 10:39pm GMT

Quakers are generally accepted as "conscientious objectors" under the US Selective Service (draft) regulations, as their objections to war and violence in general are a major part of their religious convictions.

As such, some are simply so classified and not eligible to serve, others take "non-combat" roles, usually as un-armed medical corpsmen.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 10:42pm GMT

I am merely playing 'devil's advocate' in hope of seeing a flaw in the determination at Islington. I suspect I'm too simplistic, but the registrar could have indeed asked to been moved to another task if they had objections to SS marriage licensing procedures, so why did Ms. Ladele not request this?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 18 December 2009 at 3:02am GMT

I'm not sure how the Quaker question works in, at all, if it's meant to be analogous to the Ladele case.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 18 December 2009 at 5:03am GMT

Pat
Of coures, I remember now!
And you're right, it would not have gone down well. Because it would have breached two categories, one is that it would not have been a moral judgement about a service provided but a moral judgement against a group of people who legally avail themselves of the service. And the other is that it would not have been the kind of being actively involved in bringing life or death, like abortion, which alone qualifies for legally guaranteed opt outs from laws that have been arrived at in a democratic process.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 18 December 2009 at 8:20am GMT
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