Lillian Ladele, the Christian registrar whose court battle to protect freedom of conscience became the UK’s leading case on the issue, died at home last year of natural causes. She was just 54.
Miss Ladele faced a long-running legal battle, supported by the Christian Institute’s legal defence fund, which went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
In 2003 Lillian Ladele told her managers at Islington Council that, should civil partnerships ever become law, she would have a conflict of conscience, based upon her Christian beliefs about marriage.
Following the introduction of civil partnerships, Miss Ladele wrote to her employer in 2006 asking for a reasonable accommodation of her religious objection to same-sex civil partnerships.
Islington accepted that it had more than enough registrars to provide a civil partnership service to the public, without requiring Miss Ladele’s involvement. But managers at the council refused her request, and demanded that she carry out civil partnership registrations, even though against her will. She won her case at an employment tribunal in 2008, but the decision was overturned on appeal.
Although subsequent courts accepted that she had been mistreated by her employers, they ruled against Ms Ladele, before the case went to Europe. In January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights upheld that ruling.
The Christian Institute’s in-house solicitor Sam Webster, and solicitor Mark Jones who represented Miss Ladele, were invited by her family to speak at the funeral, which took place in November 2015 at the Church of England church she attended in Islington.
Mr Jones said, ‘Miss Ladele was a strong woman and a faithful Christian. She prayed for those who said hurtful things about her and tried to reflect the love of Christ to everyone she dealt with.
‘When she gave evidence to the employment tribunal, she spoke of herself as a sinner saved by grace, and shared the gospel from the witness stand. It was a privilege to be her lawyer, but it was an even greater privilege to be her brother in Christ’.
Mr Webster said, ‘Miss Ladele became synonymous in the minds of the public, courts and commentators with the cause of religious freedom and liberty of conscience. But throughout she conducted herself with grace, dignity and with love for those with whom she profoundly disagreed.
‘Her case established principles which are now impacting other cases and situations for good. It is a tribute to Miss Ladele that official guidance now prompts public authorities to explore how they might accommodate those with a conscientious objection, including registrars’.
A statement issued by her family read: ‘She honoured and worshipped Jesus Christ in her life, and her family are comforted in their grief knowing that her name was written in the Book of Life and that she is now with her resurrected Lord and Saviour’.