Christian registrar’s appeal to be heard today

A Christian registrar who claimed she faced religious discrimination after she refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies will have her case heard in the Court of Appeal today.

Lillian Ladele, a registrar of births, deaths and marriages for the London Borough of Islington, refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies when they were introduced in 2005, as she believed such unions were in breach of her Christian faith.

When Ladele asked to be excused from conducting the ceremonies, two gay members of the council’s staff said they felt victimised by her stance, and the council took disciplinary action against her.

Ladele claimed religious discrimination and harassment, and her claims were upheld by an Employment Tribunal in 2007.

But in December 2008 the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturned the decision and ruled that the council was entitled to require all registrars to perform the full range of services.

The EAT said the claimant’s stance was “inconsistent with the non-discriminatory objectives which the council thought it important to espouse, both to their staff and the wider community.

“It would necessarily undermine the council’s clear commitment to that objective if it were to connive in allowing the claimant to manifest her belief by refusing to do civil partnership duties.”

Today Ladele’s appeal against this decision will be heard at the Court of Appeal, with a decision expected later today or tomorrow.

Naeema Choudry, employment partner at the law firm Eversheds, said: “The Employment Appeal Tribunal stressed that employers should not be forced to compromise their commitment to equal opportunities to accommodate the wishes of an individual employee, even where those wishes are based on a strong religious conviction.

“It will be interesting to see whether the Court of Appeal takes such a robust approach.”

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