MP calls for new law to remove religious discrimination from public services

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Public servants should not be allowed to discriminate on the grounds of their beliefs, Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott said today.

She has tabled a motion in the Commons, urging a change in the law.

Ms Abbott is a Labour MP and one of the best-known members of the House, due to her weekly TV appearances on the BBC politics  programme This Week.

Last week Lillian Ladele, a marriage registrar, claimed that she was discriminated against because of her religion when she refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies while employed by Islington council.

An employment tribunal agreed.

Her victory could set a precedent that will allow people with strong religious convictions to opt out of the provision of services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

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She suffered workplace bullying because of her refusal to participate in ‘gay weddings,’ was called homophobic and threatened with dismissal.

Islington Council has decided it will appeal against the employment tribunal ruling.

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Ms Ledele, who had worked for the council for more than 16 years, initially swapped with colleagues to avoid performing gay and lesbian ceremonies after civil partnerships became legal in 2005.

After formal complaints were made against her, an internal disciplinary investigation began.

It emerged earlier this week that Ms Ladele is an unmarried single mother.

She told the Mail that she gave birth to an illegitimate son when she was 20.

“I would never claim to be perfect,” she said.

The revelation has led to accusations that she was not properly cross-examined at the tribunal about the nature of her religious faith.

The tribunal’s judgment read:

“Ms Ladele is a Christian.

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“Her unchallenged evidence was that she holds the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that marriage is the God-ordained place for sexual relations.

“She could not reconcile her faith with taking an active part in enabling same-sex unions to be formed.

“She told us that she believed this to be contrary to God’s instructions that sexual relations belong exclusively between a man and a woman within marriage.”

Ms Ladele told the Mail:

“It states in the Bible that marriage occurs between a man and a woman, not people of the same sex, and, as a Christian, I try to follow what the Bible teaches.

“I’m not homophobic. I’ve never had a problem with gay people or their lifestyle.

“My issue was purely that I did not want to be the one to facilitate same-sex civil partnerships because I do not agree with them.”

Gay equality organisation Stonewall’s chief executive Ben Summerskill told

“We will seek to intervene formally in any appeal process if the opportunity arises.

“In the light of the revelations over the weekend that Miss Ladele has in fact had a child out of wedlock it does seem that the tribunal should have tested the exact nature of her claimed religious beliefs rather harder.

“It remains difficult to escape the conclusion that the principal motivation in this case for Ms Ladele, and for the Christian Institute who funded her, was prejudice against gay people and not a strongly-held religious position at all.”

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