Comments: Supreme Court declines to hear Ladele appeal

Lillian Ladele's civil rights have not been violated. She is still free to turn down her nose at gay and lesbian couples and reject them. She is still free to condemn them.
However, she is not free to use her governmental position to impose her views and violate the conditions of her job. She was hired to perform a task. That task's scope got expanded. She could have decided that her religious values were more important than this particular job and sought gainful employment elsewhere. Instead, she tried to alter her employer. And Her Majesty's Government said "No!" Good show!
In the USA some politicians are trying the opposite approach, sadly. They are passing laws that nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and store clerks can refuse to sell certain goods that are perfectly legal to sell or own. Nope, not abortion. Birth control pills, diaphragms, condoms, etc. Yep, because some people can't stand the thought that other people might not want to have babies, and because they feel that preventing conception is the same as abortinbg a fetus, they want the right to refuse to sell contraceptives, because their God says they shouldn't. It somehow has escaped them that they could seek employment with a business that conforms to their views.
Terry Sanderson is spot on.

Posted by peterpi at Tuesday, 9 March 2010 at 9:41pm GMT

It is well worth reading all of the judgments in this case if you have the time to do so.

The ET ruling in Lilian Ladele's favour was based on some rather odd readings of the law and was clearly faulty.

Subsequently there was a masterful EAT ruling which set aside the original ET.

Following this was an equally masterful reprise of the EAT ruling by the Court of Appeal which confirmed its reasoning.

If the legal reasoning of the EAT and Court of Appeal is correct then there's little point of the Supreme Court hearing the case a 4th time, especially as EAT and Court of Appeal are precedent setting.

It is worth noting that the EAT had refused leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal which nevertheless took up the case.

In addition the Court of Appeal had denied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. (I must confess at this point I'm not too sure what 'leave to appeal' etc means in the UK context but at the least it seems there's no guarantee the higher courts will take up a case where leave to appeal has already been denied by the lower court).

The Supreme Court's website states it "hears appeals on arguable points of law of general public importance".

By this denial it seems to be stating it is in agreement with the views taken by the EAT and Court of Appeal that the law has been well stated. There's no point in hearing the same case over and over again where the law is clear.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 12:07am GMT

I am sorry the new Supreme Court has decided not to review the arguments here.

The original tribunal decision in favour of Ms Ladele was a surprise - the appeal decision overturning this was masterly, careful and clear. The Court of Appeal gave firm backing to this and I regret not having the even firmer support for this judgment from their Lordships. I am also sorry the Christian Institute has not spent a great deal of money paying for this hearing.

I am surprised that anyone could think that they might win an appeal – even allowing for the hopes the first tribunal raised, it all seems to be part of a general hysteria and the facts of this case are often misreported. We even see in the Telegraph sub-heading the suggestion Ms Ladele “lost her job” – when the fact she resigned her post just before the last appeal as the article that follows explains!

Andrew Goddard repeats this falsehood in his Fulcrum piece
Civil Partnerships and Religion:Some Cautions and Questions
In the endnotes he writes:
“as happened, for example in Islington with civil registrars, leading to the dismissal of Lillian Ladele”
I pointed out this error and expected a correction - none has been made. When I complained that by not correcting this and other factual errors in the piece they were allowing the spread of lies and disinformation the Fulcrum staff did not publish my comment.

Like the judges in the Court of Appeal I sort of regret the decision of Islington to appoint all their Registrars as registrars for civil partnerships – nearly every other local authority dealt with this in a different manner as allowed in law. Though it is important to note that there was another Registrar in Islington who did not want to perform CPs and they were found suitable employment elsewhere in the authority.
By acing as they did – they gave credence to the wild claims such as Goddard makes in his endnote
“that all those who are already recognised as registrars for religious marriages are automatically designated as registrars for civil partnerships or that they become such as soon as their religious body requests recognition for conducting civil partnerships”

While it is hard to argue that this is not intended to deceive – I must say that Islington did not help and they have helped to create this hysteria.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 12:26am GMT

Yes peterpi good point ! And The film The Bird Cage (with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane), is as relevant as ever. And very funny, as well as a modern story of gospel enactment.

Spirit blowing where It listeth.

Also for that matter , the film, 'batteries not included' shows the difference prayer makes

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 12:38am GMT

"Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, which helped fund Miss Ladele’s case, added: “Christians will feel let down by this decision. It will only serve to reinforce the impression that Christians are being pushed to the sidelines of public life.

“Our nation’s highest court has effectively told them their concerns are not of general public importance.” - Christian Institute -

Obviously the 'Christian Institute' is not necessarily the equivalent of the Body of Christ, which includes all the Baptized - Women and Men, Old and Young, Straight and Gay. Rich and Poor. How presumptuous a title they have given themselves! No wonder the secular world wonders what's going on with their legal politicking.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 8:29am GMT

The difficulty with the EAT decision by the Master of Rolls, which does not seem to have been a problem in the Court of Appeals, is the waffling about whether Islington was *allowed* to accommodate Ladele's wish not to preside at ceremonial CPs. I'm not sure I would want an unwilling civil servant to preside over such an important occasion (even if I didn't know s/he was unwilling). And I'd like to have more room for conscience in cases like this. Could someone email me if you have thoughts, please (esp lawyers)?

Posted by Scot Peterson at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 8:57am GMT

In Swedish law, as I understand it, refusing to do ones job will break the employment contract. Simple as that.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 10:23am GMT

would you be asking the same question if a Registrar was a member of the BNP and would prefer not to marry black people?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 11:07am GMT

I found Martin Reynolds Comment of Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 12:26am very clear and and helpful. It clarified certain factual matters for me; and the analysis of the issues was very even-handed and helpful.

Masterly really. (Wish I could think and write like that).

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 12:00pm GMT

The question of Ms Ladele's private conscience is indeed a problem, but it is one that she cannot impose on the public as a servant of the public. What if her faith said that she should oppose mixed-race marriages (see Ezra) and she decided to refuse to act as registrar in such cases? What if she were in the Armed Forces as a gunnery sergeant and became a strict pacfist, refusing to have anything further to do with artillery but also complaining about violation of her rights when told she can't stay in her current job?

If there is harm here to Ms Ladele, it must be weighed against the greater harm of discrimination by a public official. If her conscience does not permit her to fulfil her job requirements, then she is free to seek alternative employment. Public officials cannot be allowed to perform their duties in a discriminator manner. Ms Ladele doesn't seem to have had any qualms about accepting a paycheque funded in part by taxes paid by same-sex couples.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 12:17pm GMT

Fr Ron.
I agree that the word 'Christian' has been hijacked by a bunch of intolerant, fundamentalist bigots. cf 'Christian Voice' 'Christian Lawyers' Christian Family Campaign' even 'Christian Librarians' etc. For this reason I am always very wary of people who describe themselves as such. The word has unfortunately been so debased in my eyes that I find it really impossible to describe myself as a Christian, to such and extent that when people ask me if I am a Christian I reply now that I go to church. Perhaps that is a cop out but I have nothing in common with these people and don't want to be identified with them.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 2:20pm GMT

Though not a lawyer the following might help with Scot's question.

The Court of Appeal judgment can be seen here:

Paras 62-75 at the end of the judgment deal with this at the behest of Lberty in their intervention.

Para 71:

" Once it is decided that there is nothing in the 2003 Regulations which entitles Ms Ladele, having been designated a civil partnership registrar, to insist on her right not to have civil partnership duties assigned to her because of her religious beliefs in relation to marriage, it means that there is no inconsistency, so far as other legislation is concerned, in giving the subsequent 2007 Regulations their natural meaning, namely that it is simply unlawful for Ms Ladele to refuse to perform civil partnerships. It is also hard to resist the conclusion that this means that Islington had no alternative but to insist on her performing such duties together with their other registrars. "

The Court of Appeal seems the narrow the scope of room for manoeuvre in the closing paras of the EAT judgment.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 5:28pm GMT

A further thought, perhaps a bit less frivolous: would a Roman Catholic marriage registrar have the right to refuse to register a marriage involving a divorced person? Would a registrar who belongs to the Prayer Book Society have the right to refuse to register a marriage that is within the Prohibited Degrees as published in the rubrics, but which is nevertheless now legal?

The issue is that the primary rights at stake here are those of the couple, who are coming to a state functionary in order to exercise their right to a civil marriage or civil partnership. The functionary is employed by the state in order to fulfil the state's duty to the couple. If the functionary feels unable because of religious scruples to fulfil the duties of employment, there is an obvious remedy. It used to be that the Canons of the Church listed professions that were considered unsuitable for Christians to pursue, on pain of refusal of baptism or excommunication. Perhaps certain churches should reintroduce this sort of list, and include civil marriage registrar on it.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 5:44pm GMT

Erika Baker on Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 11:07am GMT, and Nom de Plume on Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 5:44pm GMT,
I say "Thank you!" I am tired of how rules apply to everyone -- except GLBT people.
And Richard Ashby, don't get me started on those who hijack "Chrstian".
Not to mention the smugness of the more-sanctimonious-than-thou crowd. I still remember when former USA president George W Bush was asked by a reporter what he thought of individual states adopting same-sex civil marriage laws. Bush's first words in response? "Well, we have all fallen short in the eyes of God." Thank you, Preacher Bush, now how about answering the question? But that response alone probably garnered him 10 million votes in the 2004 elections. It was irrelevant to the question and to the civil issue. But, it sure made president Bush look righteous to the "I'm straight and the right sort of Christian and you're not!" crowd.

Posted by peterpi at Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 6:50pm GMT


As someone said in the midst of the debate on same-sex marriage here in Canada: "if you don't believe in same-sex marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex."

We had a few marriage commissioners try to obtain exemptions here, too. My recollection is that they didn't get as far as Ms Ladele. Churches are allowed to set their own rules, which may be more restrictive than the civil law. But the civil authorities are not in the same position.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Thursday, 11 March 2010 at 1:28am GMT

The Saskatchewan government is looking at legislation to give marriage commissioners the right to refuse to perform same sex marriages if it violates their religious conviction.

When the definition of marriage changed in Saskatchewan (by action of the courts), I would have been prepared to support a "grandfathered" conscience clause for existing marriage commissioners - though even existing marriage commissioners would not have been entitled by right. Extending it to those appointed after the fact is simply daft.

The suggestion that a public servant should get to pick and choose when to comply with the law is abhorent to any thinking person.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 11 March 2010 at 3:33pm GMT

Her position is entirely inconsistent as she was prepared to marry straight couples who had previously lived together. I have no sympathy for her at all. Good to see the 'Christian' Institute waste yet more of their money!

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 11 March 2010 at 8:32pm GMT
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