11 July 2008

The wages of sin

The Daily Mail is not a publication known for its sympathetic treatment of minorities claiming Human Rights infringements. But today they celebrated the case of Lillian Ladele, a registrar who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples on religious grounds. When pressed to do so by her employer, she sued for infringement of her religious beliefs and won; an employment tribunal ruled that Islington Council "took no notice of the rights of Miss Ladele by virtue of her orthodox Christian beliefs."

The most interesting part of the ruling, it seems to me, is the qualification about the rights of people who hold "orthodox" religious beliefs to have their rights respected. Apparently religious orthodoxy can now be judged by industrial tribunal - that if enough people claim a faith-based reason not to to do their job, then it's okay. What about if she had refused on the grounds that she just hated gay people instead of playing the God card? Would that have been grounds for dismissal, or would Islington Council have to respect her rights to hold those views and not do her job? If not, that is putting religious beliefs on a higher footing than non-religious beliefs - what does that say about the rights of atheists?

Presumably if Ms Ladele had been a member of the South African Dutch Reformed Church, she might have claimed to right not to marry mixed-race couples. Fifty-thousand people in South Africa say that's an orthodox view, even if it might not get you on the front page of the Daily Mail.

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