Workers who have devout religious beliefs could be forced out of their jobs following an ruling by an employment appeal tribunal. The warning comes after a Christian registrar who claimed she was treated like a "pariah" for refusing to
carry out civil partnership ceremonies for homosexual couples lost her case on appeal.
A tribunal ruled that Islington Council had not discriminated against Lillian Ladele because of her faith, although it added that the town hall had not treated her sensitively.
Christian groups fear the decision will send a message to other employers that they can get rid of staff whose religious convictions prevent them from carrying out certain tasks.
Ladele, who worked in the register office of Islington town hall in north London for 16 years, believes homosexuality is contrary to God's law and so refused to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after they were
made legal three years ago.
Earlier this year a tribunal found that the council had unlawfully discriminated against her on the grounds of her religious belief, after she told how she was picked on and bullied for her beliefs and was threatened with the sack.
But on Friday an Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the council's appeal, ruling that the earlier hearing had erred in law and that there was no basis for concluding that any discrimination had been established.
It stated: The council were not taking disciplinary action against Ms Ladele for holding her religious beliefs; they did so because she was refusing to carry out civil partnership ceremonies and this involved discrimination on grounds of
The council were entitled to take the view that they were not willing to connive in that practice by relieving Ms Ladele of the duties, notwithstanding that her refusal was the result of her strong and genuinely-held Christian beliefs.
Ladele now intends to appeal against the new judgement.
A Christian relationship counsellor who was sacked after he refused to give sex therapy to homosexual couples has lost his case for unlawful discrimination.
An employment tribunal ruled that the national counselling service Relate was entitled to dismiss Gary McFarlane after he said that encouraging gay sex went against his devout religious beliefs.
The decision prompted Christian groups to demand a rethink of religious discrimination laws, following a string of other high-profile cases in which courts have found against Christians who claim they have suffered as a result of standing up for
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported McFarlane in his claim, said the religious discrimination law was in danger of becoming a dead letter , while the Christian Institute said there was a growing feeling
among churchgoers that religious discrimination laws only applied to Muslims and other minority faiths.
McFarlane brought his claim for unfair dismissal after he was sacked in March 2008. In 2006, after he qualified as a psychosexual therapist, he made it clear to his employers that his strong Christian beliefs meant he did not feel able to give
sex therapy advice to homosexuals. Fellow counsellors objected to his stance and claimed his views were homophobic, and in March 2008 he was sacked.
An employment tribunal panel unanimously rejected his claim, though the panel decided McFarlane had been wrongfully dismissed as Relate had not followed the correct dismissal procedures. The panel said McFarlane's claim had failed because: The
claimant was not treated as he was because of his Christian faith, but because (Relate) believed that he would not comply with its policies and that it would have treated anyone else of whom that was believed, regardless of religion, in the same
A Saskatchewan marriage commissioner who refused to marry a same-sex couple has lost his appeal of a human rights ruling.
Orville Nichols was approached by a gay man who wanted to get married in 2005 . At first, Nichols congratulated the man, identified in court documents only as "M.J."
When M.J. told Nichols his partner was another man, Nichols told M.J. he wouldn't do the ceremony because gay marriage is against his religious beliefs.
M.J. filed a human rights complaint, which was heard in 2007.
A tribunal set up by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission ruled that Nichols did not have the right to refuse service based on his personal beliefs, and ordered him to pay M.J. $2,500 in compensation.
Nichols appealed that ruling, arguing that his religious beliefs should be protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But in a 39-page decision dated July 17, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Janet McMurty dismissed Nichols' argument, concluding that the human rights tribunal was correct in its finding that the commission had established discrimination and that
accommodation of Mr. Nichols' religious beliefs was not required.
A relationship counsellor who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples has lost his unfair dismissal appeal.
Gary MacFarlane was sacked by marriage guidance service Relate after he said he could not do anything to promote gay sex.
He alleged Relate had refused to accommodate his Christian beliefs.
The service's chief executive Claire Tyler said: The appeal judgement validates Relate's commitment to equality of access to our services. Relate's trusted service, both in Avon and across the country, relies on making sure that all members of
society, regardless of their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or relationship status, are able to access respectful and professional counselling and sex therapy.
Relate is committed to supporting all religious beliefs working within Relate. However, our primary consideration is to our clients who often need complex advice and assistance. We cannot allow anything to damage our clients, or to undermine the
principle of trust that underpins our work.
MacFarlane, a former church elder, was appealing on the grounds of religious discrimination at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Bristol.
The tribunal, chaired by employment judge Toomer, dismissed MacFarlane's claims of harassment.
Secular and libertarian groups have welcomed the Court of Appeal ruling that a council did not discriminate against a Christian registrar who refused to perform civil partnerships.
Lillian Ladele claimed that she could not officiate the ceremonies for gay couples because of her strict Christian beliefs.
She argued that Islington council's disciplinary action was discriminatory but the Court of Appeal ruled against her in the latest round of the case.
Gay organisation Stonewall said it was pleased the court had upheld the right of lesbian and gay people to receive public services from public servants .
Civil rights group Liberty had supported council in the case and described it as a common sense judgement .
Corinna Ferguson, Liberty's legal officer who specialises in religious freedom cases, said: Freedom of conscience is incredibly precious but other people have rights and freedoms too. Employers can't be expected to promote equal treatment
under the law if they must also accommodate discrimination on the part of their employees.
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said the ruling was important and definitive . He said: It establishes, we hope definitively, that because a person has strong religious views, it does not give
them the right to discriminate against and deny services to others of whom they disapprove.
Parliament has decided that gay people are entitled to civil partnerships and that their right to such a service be protected in law, so there should therefore be no opt-outs on any grounds, religious or otherwise, for public servants from
performing these ceremonies. Christian conscience should not be a blanket licence to discriminate against others.
Ladele and the Christian Institute, which is supporting her, were refused leave to appeal at the Supreme Court. However, they plan to go to the Supreme Court directly to attempt to overturn the ruling.
Lillian Ladele's situation does not raise legal points of general public importance , according to the highest court in the land.
She is now considering whether to try to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights, as she believes it shows that the right to religious conscience has been trampled by the rights of homosexuals.
A state court in New Mexico has upheld a ruling against Jon and Elaine Huguenin. As owners of Elane Photography, they declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006 and were sued.
The court ruled the owners had violated a non-discrimination law.
Jordan Lorence, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), said it exposes the threat such laws pose to religious liberty: The court showed very little respect for that and said that this was no different than a caterer serving
food and was liable to this same-sex couple.
Lorence points out New Mexico hasn't legalized same-sex unions. So, these couples are going through these ceremonies that have no legal significance to them. They're using these non-discrimination laws like 'blasphemy' laws, and they're
going on witch hunts to root out the heretics and punish them.
A Christian adoption adviser dismissed for refusing to recommend same-sex couples as suitable parents has lost her claim for religious discrimination.
Dr Sheila Matthews lost her job with the county council when she asked to abstain from voting in same-sex cases. She told her employers Northamptonshire County Council she felt children did best with heterosexual parents.
The employment tribunal, sitting in Leicester, dismissed the claim. Concluding a two-day hearing, regional employment judge John MacMillan said she had no case against the council. He said: The complaints of religious discrimination fail and
are dismissed. This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts. In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived... they were doomed to fail. There is simply no
factual basis for the claims.
MacMillan said there was no evidence that Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity. He said the
issue transcended the boundaries of all religions and ruled that Matthews should pay the council's legal costs.
A district judge will decide what amount of costs should be paid by Matthews to the council at a county court hearing on a date to be fixed.
During the hearing Matthews, who was dismissed from the adoption panel in April last year, told the tribunal the Bible was clear that homosexual practice is not how God wants us to live . She told the hearing: As a Christian, my faith
leads me to believe that marriage between a man and a woman in a faithful monogamous sexual relationship is the most appropriate environment for the upbringing of children.