Saturday, July 12, 2008

Victory for British Christian registrar who refused to carry out queer `weddings'

A Christian registrar who was harassed and discriminated against after she refused to carry out same-sex civil partnership ceremonies has won a key legal battle. Lillian Ladele, 47, said that she was treated like a pariah by colleagues at Islington council in North London after she said that she could not carry out the ceremonies as a matter of religious conscience.

An employment tribunal found that the council showed no respect for Ms Ladele's rights "by virtue of her orthodox Christian beliefs". Employment lawyers said that while the case set no binding legal precedent, it would make councils much more likely to give weight to the religious views of employees. The decision outraged gay rights campaigners, who said that it "sanctions the right of religious people to discriminate".

Ms Ladele, who had held her $62,000-a-year job for almost 16 years, could receive thousands of pounds in compensation at a further hearing in September after the tribunal found that the behaviour of her colleagues had "the effect of violating Ms Ladele's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment". The tribunal decided that gay rights should not be allowed to "trump" the rights of those with religious beliefs and said that the council's other registrars were able to provide a "first-class" service to same-sex couples without Ms Ladele's involvement.

The ruling said that Islington council "placed a greater value on the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community than it placed on the rights of Ms Ladele as one holding an orthodox Christian belief".

Ms Ladele, who is now expected to return to work, wept as she told the tribunal that her bosses ordered her to perform the ceremonies or face dismissal for gross misconduct. She said: "I felt harassed and victimised. I was being picked on on a daily basis." She added: "This is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position. Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs."

She was applauded last night by the Christian Institute, a Newcastle-based charity that funded her case, and the Evangelical Alliance. Don Horrocks, head of public affairs at the alliance, said: "This decision underlines that, despite some recent claims to the contrary, freedom of religious conscience must be protected by law in the same way as any other human right. "We would call on local politicians to take note and live up to the challenge of this benchmark decision."

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, said: "Public servants are paid by taxpayers to deliver public services. They shouldn't be able to pick and choose who they deliver those services to. Doubtless 40 years ago there were moral objections to mixed-race marriages. Quite rightly such objections would no longer be entertained." Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, said: "Lillian Ladele claims she was won a victory for religious liberty. No, she has not. She has won a victory for the right to discriminate."


Foolish Muslim pandering in Britain

Rebel the puppy only ever caused offence with his ill-timed calling cards and habit of stealing the window cleaner's chamois. Now, the German shepherd is at the centre of a political-correctness row. Rebel is the nearest thing Dundee has to a celebrity since Danny Wilson split up. His popular training "blog" details mishaps like bringing down the firearm squad's computer system by chewing a cable. It was no surprise when he appeared on a campaign postcard for a new helpline nestled inside a police hat. He is the fluffy face of the force, with lashings of the "awww" factor.

But not everyone found his floppiness irresistible. A Labour councillor called Mohammed Asif suggested the campaign would "not be welcomed by all communities because there was a dog on the cards". He didn't say Muslim communities - but that is what he meant. The headlines were all about how "Muslims were outraged" by the picture and Tayside Police apologised.

Responses ranged from exasperation at "barking mad" political correctness to anger: "If Muslims don't like dogs then they should go and live where there are none! We must stop bending over backwards to please these people, they certainly wouldn't do it for us - enough is enough!"

Inevitably, many asked why Pakistani shopkeepers, who profit from the sale of pornographic magazines, streaky bacon and alcohol, could then object to a postcard intended to inform the public. But so far as I can see, the only outraged Muslim was Mohammed Asif. His ill-judged intervention has done as much - perhaps more - to damage community relations than the hapless terrorists and their burning Jeep last year. They can attack our airports, but leave off our puppies!

There is no law against pet dogs in the Koran. The Hadith, or tradition, says they are unclean, you should not keep them in the house and must wash after contact with them. I have a few friends who share that view, but who are not religious in the least. They are probably correct when it comes to hygiene. But they don't avert their eyes from doggy pictures because they dislike canines, and neither do Muslims. The real issue here is the oversensitivity of the authorities. Their apology has whipped up more hatred than Rebel could if he'd nipped Mr Asif's ankle.

The apology is symptomatic of a general jumpiness. Today we report an absurd recommendation by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland that sniffer dogs wear slippers when searching Muslim homes for drugs and explosives. Who came up with this? Everybody knows you take your shoes off when entering a Muslim home so as not to bring in anything unclean. That would presumably apply to the dog's muddy slippers. So shouldn't the handlers put clean ones over their paws once they cross the threshold, just to be sure? It rather interferes with the element of surprise. By the same logic, handlers should take their boots off and waste more time. And are we to ban female officers from raiding Muslim homes, because they are wearing police-issue trousers (sexy!) or simply because they are women?

It is all so unnecessary. Iran, not a country known to be slipshod in its adherence to Islamic doctrine, uses sniffer dogs from France to tackle drug-smuggling. Dog teams were flown to Pakistan from around the world to search for survivors trapped in rubble after the 2005 earthquake.

Official bodies desperate to show their politically correct credentials succeed only in sowing division with such silliness. In March, a CD-Rom version of the Three Little Pigs was rejected by the obscure Whitehall department that recommends educational technology in schools. "The use of pigs raises cultural issues," it huffed and puffed.

During the last football World Cup the governor of a prison in England tried to ban her officers from wearing Cross of St George lapel badges, in case Muslims were reminded of the crusades. Last year a circular was sent to NHS employees in Glasgow urging them to ignore the tea trolley during Ramadan and to fast in support of Muslim colleagues. The passport service rejected a photo of a five-year-old girl in a sundress because her shoulders could be seen in the picture and, they said, it might be rejected in Muslim countries.

Everything is going to offend someone. Vegetarians, for example, must get quite repulsed when their neighbours have a cook-out. But the authorities don't suggest a ban on barbecues. The NHS doesn't send out circulars suggesting carnivores reach for the hummus in solidarity with their veggie colleagues. Although vegetarians may hold their views sincerely, and be able to support them with rational argument, since their beliefs are not religious, they get no special treatment. It's spirituality that gets the authorities sweating. Even then, not all religions are treated equally.

Jews have lived in this country for hundreds of years without anyone suggesting we ban piggy-in-the-middle from the playground. We don't vilify beef farmers for offending Hindus. One of the best-selling novelty toys last Christmas was a clockwork "nun-chucker".

In Scotland, the Wee Frees have been mocked without mercy for decades, just because they want to preserve Sunday for prayer in the islands where they live. The practice in Stornoway of tying up children's swings for the Sabbath ended long ago - but we never let them forget it. We ridicule Presbyterians with language we'd never apply to Muslims. Wee Free ministers are called ayatollahs for trying to stop a few ferry sailings. But we tolerate real ayatollahs who want to decapitate all Danish people because someone produced a cartoon they didn't like.

Let's hope fear is not at the root of this selective sensitivity. The response to those Danish cartoons, the threats to Salman Rushdie, the murder of the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, suggest some Muslims will respond violently to any perceived offence. Fortunately they do not seem to live here. Scottish community relations are good. If we want them to stay that way, let's ignore individuals like Asif. The majority of his co-religionists can live perfectly well with pictures of piglets and puppies.


Racist rhetoric

Only in America could critics of a group called "The Race" be labeled racists.Such is the triumph of left-wing identity chauvinists, who've succeeded in redefining all opposition as "hate." Both Barack Obama and John McCain will speak this week in San Diego at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, the Latino group whose name is Spanish for "The Race." Can you imagine Obama and McCain paying homage to a group of white people who called themselves that? .... Here are 15 things you should know about "The Race":

* It supports driver's licenses for illegal aliens.

* It demands in-state tuition discounts for illegal-alien students that aren't available to US citizens and legal immigrants.

* It vehemently opposes cooperative immigration-enforcement efforts between local, state and federal authorities.

* It opposes a secure fence on the southern border.

* It joined the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in a failed lawsuit to prevent the feds from entering immigration information into a key national crime database - and to prevent local police from accessing the data.

* It protested common-sense voter-ID provisions as an "absolute disgrace."

* It has opposed post-9/11 national-security measures at every turn.

* It opposed Oklahoma's tough immigration-enforcement-first laws, which cut off welfare to illegal aliens, put teeth in employer sanctions and strengthened local-federal cooperation.

* It joined other anti-assimilationists suing to prevent Proposition 227, California's bilingual-education reform, from becoming law.

* Former "Race" President Raul Yzaguirre said: "US English is to Hispanics as the Ku Klux Klan is to blacks." US English is the nation's oldest, largest citizens' group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in America. ....

There is more. The positions of this group do a disservice to Hispanics. It is still fighting group identity politics instead of working for assimilation. Its opposition to English is much more harmful to Hispanics than anyone else. The most successful Hispanics I know speak good English. The most likely drop outs are those who do not.


"Racism" row in Switzerland over minaret referendum

Another racism row flared up in Switzerland after the country's far-right party managed to trigger a referendum on banning minarets in the country. The demand for a popular vote was driven by the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP), which used an image of a white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag to illustrate its anti-immigration policies in last year's election campaign. The party managed to get more than 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for the ban, thus forcing the vote.

There are just two minarets at mosques in Switzerland, neither of which broadcasts calls to prayer, and a further three under consideration. Muslims account for about 310,000 people out of a population of 7.5 million.

But the controversy has echoes of a debate that has seen campaigns across Europe against minarets being built at mosques in Sweden, France, Italy, Austria, Greece, Germany and Slovenia. In Cologne, plans to expand the Ditib Mosque with a dome and two 54-metre minarets triggered an angry response from right-wing groups and the city's Catholic archbishop.

The Swiss Government tried to distance itself from the referendum call amid fears of an anti-Swiss reaction in the Muslim world. Pascal Couchepin, the President, said that the Government would recommend that voters reject the proposed ban. Other members of Switzerland's cross-party Government also spoke out against a ban. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Foreign Minister, said that the initiative would lead to a security risk by provoking Muslim anger.

The SVP has a record of using the country's system of direct democracy to provoke debate about immigration. This year it lost a referendum on moves to make it harder to obtain a Swiss passport. The party said it had chosen minarets because they were "symbols of political-religious imperialism" rather than simply traditional architecture. Dominique Baettig, an SVP MP, said: "It is like the veil, it is a symbol of non-integration. We hope that this initiative sends a clear signal that we are calling a halt to the Islamisation of Switzerland. Our hard-won individual liberties are being eroded and that is not acceptable." Jasmin Hutter, vice-president of the party, added: "Many women, even socialists, signed this petition because not one Swiss woman can tolerate the way that Muslim men treat their wives."

The Interior Ministry confirmed that it had received the referendum request but no date had been set. If it was approved, the Swiss Parliament would have to pass a law enshrining a construction ban on minarets in the constitution.

Henri-Maxime Khedoud, spokesman for the Swiss Association of Muslims for Secularism, called the referendum plan an attack against Muslims and contrary to the constitutional freedom of religion. The SVP's aim was to provoke and get media attention, Mr Khedoud said, adding that it would also make it harder for Muslims to integrate in the Alpine nation. He was confident that Swiss voters would see it as purely a headline-grabbing move. "I am sure it will be rejected," he said.

Doudou Diene, the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, whose office is in Switzerland, said last year that there was "a dynamic of racism and xenophobia" in the country. The underlying causes were a "deep-rooted cultural resistance within Swiss society to the multiculturalisation process" and "the growing prevalence of racist and xenophobic stances in political programmes and discourse, particularly during elections and various votes".



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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