Equality and Religious Belief

A great summary of the state of play as the EHRC engages in a review of religious discrimination can be found over at the excellent Religion Law Blog.


11) The Commission has said that it will oppose the appeals in the cases of McFarlane and Ladelle and clearly considers that the issues in the two cases are the same. I disagree and suggest that the two cases are clearly distinguishable on their facts and in the legal principles applicable to them. This submission will concentrate solely on the case of Ladelle which we would suggest shows an inability on the part of the Courts, and the Commission, to distinguish between simple discrimination and refusal to be complicit in an immoral act. In addition the case demonstrated an unwillingness on the part of the UK Courts to properly consider or apply the limitations in Article 9.2 in particular the question whether the limitations were “necessary in a Democratic Society”

12) In respect of her desire not to participate in same sex partnership ceremonies Ms Ladelle was manifesting her religion and belief in “practice and observance”. Since she believed that same sex relationships are sinful she was aware that by participating in them she would herself be morally complicit in that sin and therefore any attempt to force her to participate in them was contrary to her rights under Article 9 because it was an attempt to force her to act in a way that was inconsistent with her moral beliefs. Her objections should only have been overridden if that was “necessary in a democratic society”

13) In para 56 of its judgment the Court of Appeal said “Ms Ladele’s objection was based on her view of marriage, which was not a core part of her religion; and Islington’s requirement in no way prevented her from worshipping as she wished.”  and this section shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Christian belief on marriage, or Article 9 and of the proper role of the Courts. It is not for Secular Courts to distinguish what is or is not a “core part” of a religion and Article 9 is concerned with freedom of religion not freedom of worship. Like all elements of the Convention Article 9 protects both positive and negative freedom. To force someone to act in a way contrary to their religious beliefs is as bad as preventing someone acting, or worshipping in accordance with their religious beliefs but that is what Islington Council and the Court of Appeal required of Ms Ladelle.

14) In Ms Ladelles case there is absolutely no evidence that it was “necessary” to make her participate in same sex ceremonies. The evidence in the case showed that theservice provided by Islington was not in any way affected by Ms Ladelle ensuring that she was not rostered for same sex ceremonies therefore requiring her to participate was not “necessary” in any meaningful sense of the word. The fact that her views may have been contrary to the Equality policy of the Council, which is arguable both ways, still does not make it “necessary” to force her to act in a manner which was contrary to her religious beliefs. The issue of whether the Councils actions were “necessary” was never properly addressed by the Court.

Perhaps the work of the Christian Legal Centre over the past few years might yet bear fruit?

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