Bishop urged to resign for gay discrimination
It appears that Round One has been lost: common sense has not prevailed, Cranmer’s inclination was flawed, and the law is an ass.
The Bishop of Hereford is now facing calls for his resignation after the ruling by an employment tribunal that gay youth worker John Reaney had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation. This ruling clearly indicates that the exemptions granted to religious organisations are very narrow indeed, and probably only apply to the most senior clerical positions.
Mr Reaney declared his sexuality on the application form for the job of youth worker in Hereford, and after preliminary interviews was told that subject the consent of the bishop, he would be appointed. When Bishop Priddis discovered that the youth worker had recently come out of a five-year relationship, the bishop felt inclined to ask further questions about Mr Reaney’s personal life. He said: ‘It would not have been right for me to take an undertaking of his head that his heart could not keep’, namely that he would remain celibate, in line with church teachings.
The bishop therefore decided Mr Reaney was not suitable for the job, and turned him down.
The Church will now have to consider very carefully indeed before it decides not to employ any homosexual in ministry. Whilst it may certainly be the case that a rejected homosexual may not have been the best applicant for a post, any whiff of an accusation of discrimination may lead straight to the courts and demands for compensation.
But the most significant development here is that the Church of England has been confronted with the full force of statute law which challenges its orthodoxy. Should church leaders ever dare to preach again that homosexuality is a sin, or an ‘abomination’, they risk being perpetually undermined by the fact that their own youth leaders may be in openly homosexual relationships, and these influential mentors and role models symbolise the gulf of disparity that exists between the scriptural exhortations to sexual purity, and the state’s imposition of leaders who may be legitimately disbarred from positions of spiritual authority by appeal to the scriptural standards expected of them.
Cranmer’s main irritation, however, is that this case was brought first against a much respected and wholly respectable bishop in a toothless Church of England. He looks forward enormously to such cases being brought against the Roman Catholic Church and the Council of Mosques, who tend to bare rather more teeth…