Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bishop urged to resign for gay discrimination

When Cranmer first reported this, he raised a number of issues which, all taken together, inclined him to believe that common sense would prevail, and that the courts would decide that church youth work falls under the exemptions from the 2003 sexual orientation legislation granted to religious organisations.

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…


Anonymous Voyager said...

The fact is that noone was appointed to this post so it was not as if the Bishop discriminated in favour of another clearly needs to have an appeal to The High Court and then to the ECHR under the requisite Clauses and to bring in other religious groups in an amicus curiae. role

This undermines the attempts of Christian churches to employ youth workers as it opens them up to the litigation currently faced by the Roman Catholic Church in the USA simply because American Bishops defied the Vatican Instruction of February 1961.

19 July 2007 at 10:08  
Anonymous 16words said...

The law is indeed an ass. Either churches should be allowed to exercise their preference without hindrance or they should all be held to the same standard. The more interesting question, though, is whether churches should be free to use a different moral compass to that of the state. Given the multiplicity of churches and the extreme possibilities for their moral compasses, one has to consider if this might not be prudent.

19 July 2007 at 12:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not as if Bishop Priddis is exactly a fundamentalist :

19 July 2007 at 12:17  
Anonymous The Recusant said...

After Mr Reaney stated in his job application that he was gay, the Bishop asked him if he would remain celibate in accordance with Christian teaching. He said "no" and did not get the job. He won the case and now awaits a "remedy hearing" to see how much money he will get in compensation.

The crucial legal point in this case was highlighted by the solicitor, Alison Downie of Bindman & Partners:

"In this landmark test case the tribunal found not only that he suffered direct discrimination but that if necessary they would have found indirect discrimination in the diocese imposing a requirement of celibacy for lay people in employment within the Church."

So it is now against the law for a Christian organisation to require that its employees undertake to abide by Christian teaching.

(The Hermeneutic Of Continuity)

19 July 2007 at 12:48  
Anonymous Voyager said...

whether churches should be free to use a different moral compass to that of the state.

The State has no moral compass being impersonal it is amoral.

19 July 2007 at 13:07  
Anonymous Voyager said...

they would have found indirect discrimination in the diocese imposing a requirement of celibacy for lay people in employment within the Church.

untrue....celibacy for such persons as did not conform to the Nullity Of Marriage Act 1971, Part II Section 9

and English law provides that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others as stated by Lord Penzance in Hyde v Hyde (1866).

19 July 2007 at 13:13  
Blogger Cato, author of said...

Whatever one may feel about the recent legislative changes, and the way they have sought to interfere in the beliefs of faith communities, I cannot help but thinking, from what I have read of this case, that the Bishop sought to ask incredibly intrusive and personal questions of Mr Reaney which I very much suspect he would not have asked candidates declaring themselves, or thought to be, heterosexual. I do not believe, for instance, that the Bishop would have asked a heterosexual single man, who had just split up with his girlfriend, whether he had engaged in extra marital intercourse with her, whether he was a virgin, whether he intended to remain celibate in the future until he got married, and so forth, yet Scripture has some very trenchant things to say about ALL extra marital sexual behaviour. The impression is created, alas, that for some sexual impropriety a blind eye can be turned, but for others types the full weight of the Bible must come crtashing down. When the Church is interviewing candidates for employment, if it really intends to ask such highly personal questions (which frankly I find rather distatesful and prurient, and should absolutely refuse to answer were I seeking employment with it) it ought to ask them of ALL candidates equally. Only by being consistent is the Church likely in the future to avoid adverse consequences such as prevailed in this case.

19 July 2007 at 18:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Church of England is an easy and very soft target for the left wing "equalities" industry. After all there is nothing that they like so much as beating themselves up over having failed to commit 100% to their true faith, socialism. No wonder that the established church has so very few adherents anymore.

19 July 2007 at 18:26  
Anonymous CCTV said...

When the Church is interviewing candidates for employment, if it really intends to ask such highly personal questions (which frankly I find rather distatesful and prurient,

They appointed noone - the funding was contingent - so obviously the whole issue was moot.

19 July 2007 at 18:49  
Anonymous fred said...

I suggest reading Luke 21 v7 and following (especially v12)

The time is very close.

19 July 2007 at 20:53  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The problem is the triumph of Legal Positivism in Western Society which has now removed those aspects of Christian morality which distinguished Anglo-Saxon polities from arbitrary government systems.

Having politicians schooled in Greek and Latin gave them an appreciation of civilisations and a sense of history, whereas today the triumph of lawyers is to treat everything rather like a lego set and simply stick one brick on another without any sense of design or experience.

Legal Positivism creates blind obedience to man-made laws and provides indemnification for those simply "obeying orders"

6:58 AM

20 July 2007 at 06:59  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

I find the result astonishing - but am inclined to agree with Cato that the line of questioning that the Bishop took was rather unusual.

Surely it would be more appropriate to ask are "What are your views on the morality of sexual intercourse between people who are not married?" and "What are your views on the morality of sexual activity between two people of the same sex?"

After all, surely the basic issue is whether the candidate holds to Christian teaching?

Or am I being naive?

20 July 2007 at 08:38  
Anonymous Peter O said...

There are important legal precedents in this tribunal ruling which mean that the result is actually a win for both sides. I discuss this in more detail here.

20 July 2007 at 11:33  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

I'm not sure I understand the legal complexities, but if I read you correctly, the bishop has been found guilty on a technicality, and Stonewall et al are overstating the significance of this judgment?

20 July 2007 at 14:37  
Anonymous Peter O said...


The tribunal found (correctly in IMHO) that the Bishop misapplied Issues in Human Sexuality in relation to the response he got from Reaney. However, in making that judgement that ruled that the Church of England was entitled to be exempted from the 2003 Employment Equality Act on ANY matter where it had expressed a doctrinal statement or a pastoral practice based on that statement.

The legal ramifications are enormous. It means, for example, that if Synod or the House of Bishops passed a motion saying that entering into a Civil Partnership was incompatible with being ordained, the it would NOT be illegal for the church to deny (or strip) ordination from anybody entering into a Civil Partnership.

In the short term a win for LGCM but in the medium term a huge win for the traditional / orthodox side of the church.

20 July 2007 at 16:16  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Since Germany is subject to the same EU Directives -2000/43/EG, ABl. EG Nr. L 180 S. 22, 2000/78/EG, ABl. EG Nr. L 303 S. 16, 2002/73/EG, 2004/113/EG, ABl. Nr. L 373 vom 21/12/2004 S. 37–43) - and has implemented it in German Law as Allgemeine Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG) it is interesting to see exemptions for religion such that in a quoted example:

Unterschiedliche Behandlungen wegen der Religion oder Weltanschauung sind ebenfalls ausnahmsweise zulässig (§ 9). So wird es z. B. keine verbotene Diskriminierung darstellen, wenn ein Moslem nicht als Leiter eines katholischen Kindergartens eingestellt wird. Dies entspricht der bereits bestehenden Rechtslage im Arbeitsrecht bei so genannten Tendenzbetrieben

Under Paragraph 9 it is permitted for a Catholic Kindergarten to refuse to employ a Muslim which is exactly the same situation as in German Employment legislation.

One thing you neglected to mention Peter is that under the legislation in the UK the plaintiff does not need to prove discrimination....the law is framed such that the defendant must prove that he did not discriminate.

The onus is therefore on the Bishop to prove himself innocent - a reversal of the normal judicial process

Es wurde eine "Kirchenklausel" aufgenommen, die dem Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Kirchen und Tendenzbetriebe (Diakonie etc.) Rechnung trägt. Religionsgemeinschaften dürfen Beschäftigte mit Rücksicht auf deren Weltanschauung oder Religion auswählen, sofern dies im Hinblick auf ihr Selbstbestimmungsrecht oder nach Art der Tätigkeit gerechtfertigt ist.

German legislation has a Church Exemption allowing Churches to preserve their right to select employees according to religion and outlook insofar as this is relevant to the job in question

In other words the problem faced by the Bishop arises from the British Government's deliberate policy of refusing an exclusion clauses for religion as the German laws implementing the same 4 EU Directives have incorporated in their own AGG Law under Paragraph 9.

Thus the Bishop has been caught in a dilemma created by the Labour Government, and the alien treatment of presumed guilt inherent in the legislation requiring the Bishop to prove his innocence rather than the plaintiff proving his case

20 July 2007 at 18:37  

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