Monday, May 26, 2008

Christian Registrar persecuted for refusing to officiate at civil partnerships

Update: here's a report of the tribunal.

From LifeSite via CFNews: Elizabeth Thatcher, a Christian council registrar from Kent in south east England, told the London Employment Tribunal that since the introduction of civil ceremonies for registered same-sex partnerships in December 2005, a 'climate of fear' has grown among Christians working as marriage registrars. Christian lay registrars are said to be 'terrified' that the homosexualist agenda will force them to either give up their jobs or violate their religious beliefs. Thatcher said of a colleague, 'She told me that she was terrified about herself or her authority being identified because she could be vilified or the authority put under pressure to remove her'.

'I have heard of one Christian who has had to resign, but I know of others who have been accommodated,' she told the tribunal. The case being heard by the London Tribunal was called a 'landmark' by the Daily Telegraph over whether employees can be required to act against their consciences. It was brought by Lillian Ladele, 47, and a Christian registrar, against Islington council in north London. Ladele says she was bullied and shunned and accused of 'homophobia' for her refusal to carry out the civil partnerships. Miss. Ladele told the Tribunal, 'I hold the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that this is the God-ordained place for sexual relations.'

She told the BBC, 'I am not seeking to obstruct people forming civil partnerships. I believe that forcing someone to work contrary to her conscience is not right.' 'I feel unable to facilitate directly the formation of a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God's law.' The council is required to provide a registrar for civil partnership ceremonies, but it has the right to choose who does them and in the past, Miss. Ladele had made accommodation with other registrars to avoid having to perform the ceremonies for homosexual partners. To date, no homosexual partners have been denied a ceremony from the Islington council.

A spokesman for the Christian Institute, the group covering costs for Ladele's case, said the case is a clear matter of religious discrimination. 'Other occupations allow conscientious objections,' said Mike Judge. 'No homosexual couple is being denied their right to marriage, because other registrars are performing them.' Judge said the issue of the meaning of marriage is a contested issue, with different opinions among many Londoners. 'But I don't think that Lillian should be facing the sack just because she has that one particular point of view.' 'And that's what is at issue here. She is being disciplined and threatened with the sack because she's a Christian,' he said.

Briefing, 21/05/08. This important case is in the courts right now; we'll see what happens. The Vatican has explicitly said that Catholic registrars must refuse to officiate at civil partnership ('gay marriages'):
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. (n.5)
There have been many cases of conscientious objection in Spain and elsewhere. This seems to be the first from the UK.

From EVNews: The Daily Mail and the Christian Institute report that 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.

Lillian Ladele, 47, claims council bosses bullied her after she told them of her religious objections to same-sex civil partnerships.

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.

She told the hearing in central London that colleagues denied her rights as a Christian and grew increasingly 'hostile' towards her over her refusal to marry couples of the same sex.

"I hold the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that this is the God-ordained place for sexual relations,'"she said.

"A civil partnership is marriage in all but name."

"Regardless of my feelings for the participants, I feel unable to directly facilitate the formation of a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God's law.

"My beliefs do not mean I wish people who are homosexual to receive detrimental treatment. The council knows that if I am required to choose between my conscience and their desire that all registrars must undertake civil partnership duties, then I will have to honour my faith and face unemployment."

Miss Ladele, from Islington, is having her legal fees paid by the Christian Institute.

Click here for Daily Mail article

Click here for Christian Institute article


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this post leaves out is the other side of the argument.

"But the gay rights campaign group Stonewall said Ms Ladele's opposition to civil partnerships, which were given legal recognition in 2005, was unjustified.

'All public servants are paid to uphold the law of the land,' said a spokesman.

'Doubtless there were those 40 years ago who claimed a moral objection to mixed marriages between people of different ethnic origin. Discrimination on any basis is equally unacceptable.'"

Imagine Ms. Ladele's outrage if she had wanted to marry a white man and had been turned away by a registrar because that person didn't believe in marrying mixed race couples. Unfortunately, discrimination based on sexuality is much more acceptable than other forms. If she can't perform the duties of her job, I suggest she get another job.

Webmaster said...

If Mrs Ladele had wanted to marry a man of any race and had no impediment, she would have had the right to do so and turning her away would have been wrong. In this case, the partners are incapable of marrying for rather basic biological reasons but are persisting in asking her condone their immoral lifestyle. Well, that's wrong, and she is right to refuse. So where's the parallel?

But get off your high horse: no-one is being 'turned away'. What she is asking for is the equivalent of a Jewish soldier wanting pork-free rations. It is a matter of minor inconvenience to her employer to allow her to avoid these ceremonies. Islington has deliberately chosen to persecute her for her beliefs to make an issue of it.

Hilary White said...

The first article you cited above was not written by any staff member of CFNews. I know this because I was its author and I wrote it for

Catholic Action UK is a useful website but this is the second time in the last five minutes I have seen my own work used with incorrect attribution to CFNews. has a very generous fair use policy that allows anyone to use our material in whole or in part, but only with proper attribution. Please amend your site in accordance.

Webmaster said...

We got it from CFNews and we reformat it a bit so the attribution to LifeSite News sometimes gets lost, but we'll make a point of putting a link in. Sorry for not doing that in these cases.

Apologies for not responding to your emails. We didn't receive any. Can't explain that. Perhaps they got caught in Google's spam filter.

BTW we love LifeSite News but it is not easy to search. It is partly because of this that we think re-publishing these stories on this blog is worth doing.

John Pintus said...

If the registrar were a Catholic would she refuse to officiate at the marriage of two catholis? Surely her conscience would forbid this given that the marriage would be invalid. The registar is an official of the state and as such must uphold the law.

Webmaster said...

There is nothing intrinsically evil about Catholics marrying in a civil ceremony. In some circumstances it is convenient to do this and have it 'convalidated' in a church marriage service afterwards; this is what they do in France for example. So the answer is 'no'.

She's an official of the state and she's being asked to perform an evil action. Like all officials of the state asked to do evil actions the thing she 'must' do is refuse to perform the action. Torture, rape, genocide: are state officials obliged to do these things if they happen to be legal? You are confusing legal and moral obligation. Moral overrides legal.

John Pintus said...

Webmaster, using the same logic there is nothing instrinsically evil in a civil partnership. Just as the registrar may presume that the catholic couple will not have sex till their relationship is convalidated in a church marriage, she might also assume that the partnership has been made for other reasons. There is no legal obligation to consumate a civil partnership with a sexual relationship.

Webmaster said...

A civil partnership is the legal recognition of a relationship on a par with marriage. Just as it is proper to assume that a marriage has been consummated, so it is unfortunately necessary to assume that the relationship in this case is immoral. Hence the condemnation by the Vatican quoted in the post.

The possibility, if there ever was one, that a civil partnership could be seen as a mere tax-efficient legal fiction was ruled out when siblings were excluded from contracting them. Why was this done? Because civil partnerships were not intended for people who happen to be close or sharing a house: they are intended for people whose relationship is understood to parallel marriage. Ie a long-term and sexual relationship.

Quentin said...

The point this debate is missing is that this is a CIVIL and secular union. Religion is rightly excluded from either straight marriages or gay civil partnerships.

It's part of her job description that she officiates at civil partnerships. If she feels this goes against her conscience, then I'd say she's in the wrong job and seek employment elsewhere.

Webmaster said...

The point *you* seem to be missing is that civil functionaries cannot be morally obliged to apply immoral laws. If you don't beleive that then you'll end up saying that policemen would be obliged to round up Jews when ordered to do so etc..

The question is whether conscientious Christians are to be excluded from ever wider areas of employment. If they are, that is persecution.

Quentin said...

What nonsense!

The only person excluding Lillian Ladele from working as a registrar is herself. If she refuses to carry out her responsibilities, what are her employers supposed to do?

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 were 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.

Like it or not, civil partnerships are legal in this country. One person's prejudices cannot be permitted to interfere in secular matters such as these.

Webmaster said...

You're not addressing the the problem with your position, which I have spelt out twice and I will leave it at that.

As for your objection about fairies etc. the answer is that the moral views you refer to are not only false but patently unreasonable, and the views of Mrs Ladele are neither.

Quentin said...

Whereas you see, I think that Ms Ladele's views are false and patently unreasonable.

The law is immoral only in her (and your) eyes. Not in mine, nor in the eyes of millions of people in this country, nor (thankfully) in the eyes of our government and our legislators. You really can't claim any kind of absolute moral authority in this matter, I'm afraid.

And answer me this:

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?

Isn't the truth of the matter that this personal prejudice against gay people dressed up as a religious objection?

Webmaster said...

The law is objectively immoral. Mrs Ladele has arguments for this and so do we. You may reject those arguments, but the point is that we are arguing that the law is immoral, and ipso facto that no-one should be forced to cooperate with it.

What about the millions of people and the governments who thought that it wasn't immoral to engage in genocide, slavery, aparteid etc.? Did that make all those things ok? Their arguments for the morality of those things were rubbish. We have to engage with these arguments in every case.

By the way there is nothing immoral about people who have had sex outside marriage getting married. Usually it is a good idea, in fact, for them to do so. Where do you get your ideas about what Christians think is wrong? Perhaps you should find out more about the people you criticise.

Quentin said...

I find it interesting that all the examples of immoral laws that you cite (genocide, slavery, aparteid(sic)) have one thing in common: that as a result of these undoubtedly "bad" laws, people were oppressed, abused and killed.

It's laughable that you should attempt to draw comparisons between legislation created to facilitate suffering and the law in this case: legislation that is fundamentally concerned with recognising loving relationships between consenting adults and who are causing absolutely nobody any harm!

I'd add that the fact that we don't actually have slavery, genocide or apartheid in the UK, but that we do recognise civil partnerships is probably a sign that our government's moral compass is pretty much on track.

As for the morality of people having sex outside marriage. As you well know, there certainly are Christians who disapprove of such a thing, although you may not be among their number. Fortunately the number is lessening as time goes on. I expect that as we move into yet more enlightened times, that Christians who have a problem with gay relationships will continue to reduce in number in much the same way.

Webmaster said...

You are so confused, and so determined to stay that way, that I am not going to continue this discussion.

You might like to ask yourself one question: how would you like conscientious people to react when faced by an immoral law? Go along with it because they face persecution if they do not? I don't think so.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen