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Islington Tribune - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 8 August 2008
Awkward Christians? We could bring back the lions

• THE Lilian Ladele case is still making headlines. I was recently reading the Sodom and Gomorrah Gazette, with which, of course, Islington is twinned, where the news that someone is still allowed to exercise freedom of conscience, do what is believed to be morally right and avoid what is sinful has been greeted with horror and bewilderment.
The municipal authorities there had long ago solved the problem by feeding its own troublesome Christians to the lions, and had very generously offered to help out by sending Islington Council a team of handlers and a pride of lean creatures that could do the same here.
This would seem to be an eminently sensible solution and I hope the council is able to take up this publicly spirited offer in order to take care of these awkward Christians.
Market Road, N7

• THE judgment in the Lillian Ladele case goes against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Civil partnerships have been long overdue, giving lesbian and gay couples the same rights and responsibilities as their heterosexual “married” peers. For older lesbian and gay couples who have been together a lifetime this gives peace of mind, protection and validation of the life they have built and cherish with each other.
The Rev Dr Jeremy Hobson compares Ms Ladele to conscientious objectors of World War II (Why we must protect rights of this modern-day ‘conchie’, July 25). How can anyone compare objecting to the taking of life with a refusal to conduct a civil partnership, which, aside from its legal standing, is a celebration of life and love?
To allow Ms Ladele her “victory”, and indeed to give it any credibility, sends a clear message to the lesbian and gay community that they are second-class citizens. It clears the way for anyone to cite “religious views” or the “conscience clause” to discriminate against anyone whom they disagree with, and to be allowed to do so by the law, even though the Equality Act clearly states otherwise.
Public servants have a duty to serve all members of the public without prejudice or bias. To allow a small minority to pick and choose the bits they like and to ride rough-shod over the rest makes a mockery of the laws of the land.
Registrars have a duty within law to serve the public, and if Ms Ladele no longer feels she can fulfil the responsibilities of her role, then she should step down.
Nick Maxwell
LGBT development coordinator (men)
Age Concern Camden

• WHAT a wondrous refuge religion provides for the prophets and practitioners of prejudice and preferment. An Islington registrar refuses to perform a civil ceremony and is praised by a priest as a “conscientious objector”. Suddenly vice becomes virtue while the word love vanishes from view.
It is not the function of a public servant to let personal belief, from whatever source, get in the way of duty; and support from one of religion’s partial professionals doesn’t make any such decision right.
MC Newberry
Harcourt Street, W1

• ISLINGTON Council will, thankfully, appeal against the recent absurd tribunal decision supporting Lillian Ladele and her insistence on remaining employed while refusing to do her job as a registrar.
It is apparent that the vast majority of Islington residents support the rights of same-sex couples and their equal protection under law, so I will not waste words in that regard or respond to the homophobic invective of some correspondents.
I must respond, however, to the comments of one writer who speaks disparagingly of my faith (Tolerance for everyone but orthodox Christians, July 25). The Rev PD Johnson writes regarding Unitarianism “once a person departs from orthodox Christian doctrine… there is no way of knowing where he will end up in matters of doctrine and practice.” To my surprise, I find myself in agreement!
Unitarians departed from orthodox Christian doctrine centuries ago with the rejection of scripturally unsupported church dogma and practices. Open to wisdom from all sources near and far, Unitarians have continued to grow and change and expanded beyond Christianity to embrace teachings of other world religions and philosophies. Today, a Unitarian congregation such as ours in Islington will comprise people with a gloriously diverse range of beliefs, all committed to creating a better world and better life for all people.
It is Unitarianism’s core commitment to the worth and dignity of each person that led us to stand up in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples. It is our embrace of the power of love that leads us to welcome all people of open mind and heart.
The Unitarian commitment to freedom, openness and justice for all has come at a great price. Unitarians have been persecuted and even burned at the stake for their variance from accepted doctrine. Just two weeks ago, we saw a tragic and lethal attack on a Unitarian congregation in the American state of Tennessee by a self-described hater of gays, blacks and liberalism.
As Mr Johnson rightly suggests, abandonment of rigid doctrine launched Unitarians into an uncharted sea of faith. We do not know where we will end up. We know it will certainly not be a place where people are judged by whom they love, the colour of their skin or by what they believe. None of us can know where the journey will take us, but we have faith that, guided by love and the wisdom of the ages from every source in this great world, it will surely lead towards the wholeness and justice that all religions have long dreamed of.
Andy Pakula
Minister, Newington Green and Islington Unitarians

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Islington Tribune, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to Deadline for letters is midday Wednesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld . Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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