A Christian registrar from Islington who was bullied and threatened with dismissal because of her religious beliefs on same sex unions has succeeded in her claims of unlawful discrimination by the council.
In its unanimous judgment, the employment tribunal found that Miss Lillian Ladele was directly discriminated against by Islington Council after she asked to be allowed not to perform civil partnership registrations.
The ruling confirmed that the various acts of direct discrimination committed against Miss Ladele by Islington Council on the grounds of her religious belief included: failing to consider her for promotion; deciding to discipline her and threatening her with dismissal; concluding she had committed gross misconduct; failing to redress allegations that she was homophobic; disregarding her concerns about her treatment; and failing to apply its anti-discrimination policies to gay colleagues who were mistreating her.
The tribunal also accepted that Islington Council had been able to deliver services to gay couples seeking civil partnerships, without Miss Ladele's involvement. Therefore, the Council's decision to require Miss Ladele to perform civil partnership registrations, contrary to her conscience, was an unlawful act of indirect religious discrimination.
The Council's actions also amounted to unlawful harassment. The judgment found that the Council "disregarded and displayed no respect for Ms Ladele's genuinely held religious belief," and it created an "intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her on grounds of her religion on belief."
In coming to their conclusion, the tribunal said, "It is an important case which may have a wider impact than the dispute between the parties."
Reacting to the decision, Miss Ladele said: "I am delighted at this decision. It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine. Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs."
Mark Jones, solicitor for Miss Ladele, said: "Hopefully this decision will encourage other employers to balance competing rights where they conflict. In standing up for her faith, Lillian Ladele found herself vilified by various people, including some holding themselves out as protectors of the rights and freedoms of others. She faced this with a quiet dignity. I hope that those who were quick to criticise Lillian - including those holding political and clerical office - will now swiftly express their support for her (and others like her) now she has been revealed as the victim, and not the perpetrator, of the discrimination they purport to oppose."
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell condemned the judgment: "If this judgement stands, it will pave the way for religious people to have the legal entitlement to discriminate on conscientious grounds against people of other faiths, unmarried parents and many others who they condemn as immoral.
"Public servants like registrars have a duty to serve all members of the public without fear or favour," he added.
To download a scanned copy of the judgment click here.