Friday, 11 July 2008

Tribunal success for registrar who will not do civil partnerships

The BBC news website reported the success of a Christian registrar in the London Borough of Islington. Their report can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7499248.stm. Less than 24 hours after this report first appearing, it can only be found by doing a Google search - it is not available by a link from any of the pages of the site that you might expect.
Lillian Ladele, who said the civil partnership ceremonies went against her Christian faith, hailed the decision as a "victory for religious liberty".

The tribunal ruled that Miss Ladele was discriminated against on grounds of religious beliefs and was harassed. ...

She said she was picked on, shunned and accused of being homophobic for refusing to carry out civil partnerships.

Previous working arrangments for the Registrars in the borough had allowed them to "swap" among themselves so that those with conscientious objection to civil partnerships did not have to officiate at such ceremonies. A change, in which the registrars became directly employed by the local authority, led to the present case.

The BBC report contrasted Miss Ladele's observation that

"Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs"
with Peter Tatchell's observation that

"Public servants like registrars have a duty to serve all members of the public without fear or favour. Once society lets some people opt out of upholding the law, where will it end?"

This latter observation set me off on two trains of thought. If the first sentence is taken at absolutely face value, then a whole range of professional roles are going to be closed down to those who have faith convictions that oppose the morals currently being expressed de facto in legislation in the UK. This is surely profoundly discriminatory - and it is an intense irony that it is happening in the name of "diversity". A much more genuine pluralism in provision seems to me to respect the genuine demands of human freedom.

The second sentence set me thinking about situations where ordinary people might have justified their behaviour as "upholding the law" or "obeying orders" - in other words, following an ethic defined by features of state legislation or policy. South Africa during apartheid? Civil rights at the time of racial segregation in America? I can't help but feel that there are situations where Peter Tatchell would be an advocate of "civil disobedience". This sentence might be a nice media sound bite, but it cannot provide an adequate principle for moral action.

A much fuller discussion of the relationship between the state and civil society, between the individual and state and between the individual and civil society is called for. The media bytes of the pro-Gay lobby suppress this discussion.

4 comments:

Joe said...

For those unfamiliar with the UK situation:
1. Peter Tatchell is a well known pro-gay activist. I have memories of being present years ago on an occasion when his "outrage" group disrupted a lecture being given by the late Cardinal Winning.
2. Islington, in political terms, is Tony Blair territory. It might not be so stronly so now, but it would at one time have been very much associated with progressive moral and political ideas.

Mac McLernon said...

I found it by doing a search on the BBC news site... and a video too!

Anonymous said...

Zero says
When i saw this on the news last night i knew you would pick up on it! There was coverage in the papers today and it said on the news last night that there may be an appeal-i hope not.
I am pleased for this worker and for others in similar situations who may have feared for their jobs if they did not comply-whatever their faith.
I believe Peter Tatchell is for human rights not gay rights -especially- now and i do recall him tackling (literally)Robert Mugabe some time before all the condemnation and media coverage over this year's election results.

bernadette said...

I'm confused. One minute we`re all slagging off Auntie (and I`m no fan) and demading a refund of the license fee, the next minute we're citing it it as a leading world authority on the veracity of "news" stories.

Come on, boys and girls, which is it ? It certainly can`t be both.