The interview with Dominic Grieve was of considerable interest and repaid reading more than once. There is one place though where there appears to be a lack of consistent thought in his comments, though this may of course be due to their having been truncated.
He is quoted as saying: ‘If a public servant in public office is required to register something that is deemed lawful by the law of the land, then there is no defence.’ The point that is missed here is that the registrar was not on trial in any sense. She was seeking an adjustment to her duties in order to accommodate her (religious) principles.
There will have been other employees who could have undertaken the duty in question. Therefore, there could be no argument that, as a matter of practice, the duty could not have otherwise been fulfilled.
There are many instances in which account is taken of religious principles. Allowing employees periods in which they may pray during working hours is just one example.
There have been many cases reported in which allowance for an employee has been ruled necessary to take account of anti-discrimination legislation. This one had a stronger justification than most as it is based on religious guidance and teaching. The law will normally support individuals in such a context.
The lady in question was both justified in principle and had a sound argument in law. The local authority should have made the adjustment as requested. It appears to have acted with rigidity and taking no account of the employee’s welfare.
It is a deficiency in its application of this area of the law that the (majority of the) European Court of Human Rights was not able to see that individual rights in context are in need of protection and how important it is that this must be supported. This is all the more so when the context is one in which they may run contrary to what is a currently modish view.
David Haley, Preston