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Human rights watchdog calls for evidence after Islington registrar refuses same sex unions

Lillian Ladele Pic: Johnny Green/PA Lillian Ladele Pic: Johnny Green/PA

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
6:25 AM

A human rights watchdog has called for evidence about religion in the workplace after a Christian registrar was disciplined by Islington Council for refusing to conduct gay civil partnerships.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it wanted to gather as much information as possible about how religion or belief affects people in their jobs.

The exercise comes after Lillian Ladele was one of three British Christians to have her discrimination claims rejected by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg last year.

Miss Ladele resigned in 2009 after telling the town hall she couldn’t oversee same-sex unions.

The registrar, who refused to perform gay ceremonies “as a matter of religious conscience”, claimed to have been all but forced out of her job and that she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her beliefs – an accusation upheld by an employment tribunal in 2008.

A subsequent appeal overturned that decision, and European judges said disciplinary proceedings against her were justified and the council was bound by duties not to discriminate against their clients and could not support staff who refused to work with homosexual couples.

The ruling meant that she and her co-defendants Shirley Chaplin and Gary McFarlane could take their case no further.

The EHCR said that despite these high-profile cases, very little was known about how frequently these problems occurred.

The commission said evidence-gathering would remain open for responses until mid October.

It said it wanted to know about both negative and positive experiences since 2010.

EHRC chief executive Mark Hammond said: “Everyone has the right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect that includes respect for people’s faith or beliefs, and respect for the rights of others.

“We are well aware of the complexity in dealing with such issues.

“Undertaking this major piece of work will help to build our understanding about how well the law is working so we can fully examine the adequacy of the current legal framework for religion or belief.”

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