*Updated 9 August
There have been several media reports that Peter Tatchell is again considering “outing” some Church of England bishops who are believed to be partnered homosexuals, this time in connection with the issue of clergy who enter same-sex marriages.
This story began when Kelvin Holdsworth interviewed Peter Tatchell on this topic and reported on his blog: Peter Tatchell on Outing Bishops. (Tatchell had come to St Mary’s Cathedral Glasgow to deliver a lecture on human rights which you can see in full here.)
Media reports have ensued:
Pink News Peter Tatchell: I am considering outing bishops who discipline married gay clergy
Now, Paul Johnson has written a lengthy analysis in answer to the question: Do Church of England ‘gay bishops’ have a human right not to be ‘outed’?
…This subject will no doubt be discussed in detail by those learned folk over at Thinking Anglicans and Law and Religion, but one aspect that caught my attention was Tatchell’s interpretation of the bishops’ ‘right to privacy’:
Peter Tatchell: […] we are amassing the evidence right now. I’m not saying that we will use it, but we are certainly thinking about it – because people have a right to privacy so long as they are not using their own power and authority to harm other people and when other people are being caused harm and suffering we have a duty to try and stop it. If this is the only way, it is certainly not the preferable way, it’s not the first option but as a last resort I think it is morally and ethically justifiable.
This made me think: how would Tatchell’s interpretation of the ‘right to privacy’ stand up in the context of ECHR jurisprudence?
Could Article 8 protect Bishops from the practice of ‘outing’?
And he ends his analysis (which should be read in full) with this:
From the Court’s existing case law it would appear that any complaint to the Court from a Church of England bishop about any failure of the UK to fulfil its positive obligations under Article 8 to prevent discussion of his private life would likely be unsuccessful.
This is because such a discussion would likely be judged to involve a public figure and to be an issue of general debate to which the public had a right to be informed. In short, it would be regarded as necessary in a democratic society to ‘override’ the rights of the individual subject to discussion.
The use of photographic ‘evidence’, however, would raise separate issues and any regulation of it by UK authorities may not be judged to violate Article 10.
As such, aside from its moral or ethical legitimacy, Peter Tatchell’s ‘outing’ of ‘gay bishops’ may be on safe legal grounds in respect of any complaint to the Court by an ‘outed’ bishop under Article 8 of the Convention.
There is a further discussion of the above at Law & Religion UK in “Outing” gay bishops and Article 8 ECHR.