Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Discrimination Laws v Freedom

Two deeply worrying cases in two days.
Lillian Ladele v Islington Council [2009] EWCA Civ 1357
R v JFS School [2009] UKSC 15

Lillian Ladele a Christian Registrar of Marriages who asked to be excused from performing Civil Partnerships (Same Sex Marriage in all but name) lost her claim for Religious Discrimination before the Court of Appeal. The last paragraph of the judgment makes it clear how badly Lillian was treated by her employers Islington Council but the fact that she had behaved properly and they had behaved disgracefully did not help her.

It is important to remember that Lillian was not trying to create a fuss or become a martyr. She was swapping with colleagues so that they did the Civil Partnerships and she did the marriages or other Registrar tasks so nobody who wanted a Civil Partnership was affected or even knew about her.

Two Gay registrars however complained about her doing this even though no Gay person was actually affected. In addition when she wrote to her senior manager asking if she could be excused from doing Civil Partnerships her letter was treated as "Gross Misconduct" even though it was described by both the EAT and the Court of Appeal as a "thoughtful and temperate letter" In addition private information about Lillian Ladele was provided to those Gay Employees and shared with Islington's LGBT [Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender] Forum.

What Islington Council clearly lack is an understanding of true Tolerance and a willingness to live and let live

An even more worrying case is the decision by the UK Supreme Court that the admissions policy of the Jewish Free School was illegal under Race Relations Law even though the admissions policy was based on historic Jewish law going back over 3000 years.

As a lawyer I can understand the technical legal argument but as a human being I regard it as a profoundly dangerous extension of state power. On the basis of this Judgment an adult who Orthodox Jews do not accept as Jewish can apply to become an Orthodox Rabbi and the Orthodox Synagogue cannot say no.

What next will the courts have the power to say "The Pope does not accept that you are a Catholic but we do and so you are entitled to become a Catholic Priest". On the basis of this judgment that is a possibility because at its heart what the judgment of the Supreme Court does is to attack the right of organisations and religions to have their own personal identity. It is the most insidious form of totalitarianism

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