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Equality Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:39 am on 9th June 2009.

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Maleiha Malik: On the issue of conscientious objection, there are provisions in the legislation through indirect religious discrimination provisions to allow some accommodation of religion and belief in areas such as the workplace. My organisation is strongly against further accommodation of conscientious objection, especially in the public sector for the following two reasons. First, we are very strongly against it when the conscientious objection in and of itself constitutes a breach of the constitutional right not to be discriminated against by another person. That would be the case, for example, of the Christian registrar—the Ladele case—who wanted the right not to perform civil partnerships. The case was decided in an industrial tribunal and we endorse the decision of Mr. Justice Patrick Elias at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, who held that, in fact, she had no right to conscientious objection. Our pragmatic reason is that it is wrong, as a matter of principle and practice, to send out a signal that there can be segregated public services when public officials should, rather than setting the tone of discrimination law, be at the forefront of discriminating against users of public services.