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.