Sunday, 1 April 2007

English bishop to appear at tribunal

Updated Monday

The Bishop of Hereford, Anthony Priddis is to appear before an employment tribunal in Cardiff on Wednesday, in a case involving the Employment Equality Regulations (Sexual Orientation) 2003.

Reports today in both the Observer Bishop blocks gay youth worker’s job by Anushka Asthana and in the Sunday Telegraph Gay youth worker accuses bishop of discrimination after failing to get job by Jonathan Wynne-Jones.

Update
The BBC is now also carrying this story: Gay man takes bishop to tribunal.

Update Monday
The Mail on Sunday had Bishop accused of blocking gay man’s job will face a tribunal by Tom Kelly.

Western Daily Press BISHOP BANNED JOB APPLICANT WHO WAS GAY.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 11:26am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

If he was offered the job, which he clearly was, and the bishop has refused it on the grounds of his orientation, which by the reported questioning he was refused, then the bishop ought to be in trouble and have his decision overturned. It is nothing but prejudice and unrelated to the ability of this person to do the job. Let's hope it is established that this bishop hasn't got a leg to stand on, and that even the narrowest interpretation of these employment laws can be done away with.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 1:27pm BST

I can't wait to see if Rowan starts issuing bulls about this. While I realize that the law was intended to exempt clergy from the provisions, I think it's about time that people like Jeffrey John started filing complaints. It would be interesting to see if the courts found the clerical exemptions in violation of the European human rights conventions.

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 2:57pm BST

Hey folks; this just HAS to be an April fool.....surely?

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 3:57pm BST

In response to Richard (and my working hypothesis is still that this is an April Fool - only a few hours to go....) I think that clerical posts would be covered by the Freedom of Religion under the ECHR.

The regulations themselves have to be in compliance with the ECHR as well as the originating EU Directive.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 4:21pm BST

It's not an April Fool, but in that vein TA readers may enjoy:

http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/2719/

not to mention several articles at

http://www.skdiocese.com/

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 4:57pm BST

If this is a serious story, and not a joke, then (given his middle of the road pedigree) this is most worrying. Looking Mr. Priddis up and he appears to be a rather dull safe pair of hands who had some time as Bishop of Warwick. Cuddesdon training would not normally be expected to throw up such an anachronistic figure. Or are the bishops ALL terrified? The intrusive questioning seems to suggest some kind of kinky kick this guy gets out of sexual details. I wonder what the bishop has to hide?

Posted by: Neil on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 5:06pm BST

May I say how much I deplore this terrible attack on Bishop Priddis, the Diocese and indeed the entire Church of England, indeed and in fact for sure on the very Foundations and Fabric of the Faith itself ?

How could this dreadful youth worker attack these poor weak, unprotected bodies? Time was when homosexuals would take all this without so much as a murmur. What a sign of moral decline this law suit must be.

Indeed it must be said that this is driving the Church from the public square in Hereford, and indeed no public square will be safe from us -- er safe for us.

This is downright prejudice against let's face it, bodies with a deep love and regard for these homosexuals and all we want as I say, is our place on the public square, in the on-going dialogue of deep sharing --- and to have been so slighted.....

HOW much the poor wronged bishop and diocese must need all our prayers as they face this ordeal of public accountability .....

+ Cormac Murphy O'Williams
Solemnity of All Fools

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 5:11pm BST

"I think that clerical posts would be covered by the Freedom of Religion under the ECHR."

You're probably right, but you could make some interesting arguments about the conflicting values in human rights. Gay men who believe themselves to have a religious vocation could claim to have a right to pursue it without personal restrictions imposed by the religious beliefs of others, particularly in a church which is an organ of the state. Of course by the time the ECHR ever decides anything the people who brought the action are too old to get much practical benefit from it.

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 6:07pm BST

Questions for English folks.

Does the C of E have in place a uniform policy for background checks on clergy and paid staff who work with minors?

Are clergy and paid staff and vounteers who work with minors required to take a course or attend a presentation on prevention of child sexual abuse?

In my diocese these are standard, and in addition, our rector has asked that vestry members also attend the prevention ofd child sexual abuse program, on the theory that a church with more trained folks is a safe church for children.

There's a booklet and a DVD for this, and it is quite chilling, as on the DVD you see and hear from real victims and also real perpatrators. The latter do not fit many peoples' mental image of a child molester.

I'd be interested in what C of E does in this regard.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 7:50pm BST

The Church appear to be constantly moving the goalposts - how about the many openly gay people in relationships who are lay readers, and became so in the full knowledge of their situation?

The exemptions clearly covered only clergy as previous decisions have indicated.

This further confirms to me that there is really no place for me in the Church of England.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 7:56pm BST

Cynthia

Yes the Church of England has a clear policy requiring background checks. These checks here are carried out by the government. See http://www.crb.gov.uk/

As for training courses, these are provided, but I am not sure how far they are mandatory in all places.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 10:44pm BST

Cynthia asked:
Questions for English folks.
Does the C of E have in place a uniform policy for background checks on clergy and paid staff who work with minors?
etc.

Well..... there's an institution called the Criminal Records Bureau: in this diocese OFFICIALLY anyone engaging in any sort of work with children & young people(ie under 25) and vulnerable adults must fill in a form authorising a search for any convictions, cautions, etc. which they might have. On top of that, each individual wishing to work in such a position (and here it includes the caretaker, the first aiders, those who take out the sacrament to the housebound and so on) must be interviewed and approved by the PCC, be given yearly appraisals etc etc. Training is also compulsory.

On top of that, one CRB clearance isn't sufficient. One of our folk, a teacher, is cleared to teach in a school, but not yeat cleared to go in as a representative of the Diocese! The system is under review as a part of the Bichard enquiry into the Soham murders (qv).

Enforcement from the diocesan level is different, of course, and if a church was daft enough to ignore the guidelines which the CofE and the diocese have issued, then they would be torn to pieces by insurers and anyone else you can think of if something went wrong. We play it safe.

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 10:49pm BST

The exemptions in the regulations were not explicit as to who was covered. In the House of Lords, Lord Sainsbury said:

When drafting Regulation 7(3), we had in mind a very narrow range of employment: ministers of religion, plus a small number of posts outside the clergy, including those who exist to promote and represent religion. The words on the page reflect our intentions. The first clause reads:

"This paragraph applies where—(a) the employment is for the purposes of an organised religion".

First, this is no "blanket exception". It is quite clear that Regulation 7(3) does not apply to all jobs in a particular type of organisation. On the contrary, employers must be prepared to justify any requirement related to sexual orientation on a case by case basis. The rule only applies to employment which is for the purposes of "organised religion", not religious organisations. There is a clear distinction in meaning between the two. A religious organisation could be any organisation with an ethos based on religion or belief. However, employment for the purposes of an organised religion clearly means a job, such as a minister of religion, involving work for a church, synagogue or mosque.

Read the rest of what he said at
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200203/ldhansrd/vo030617/text/30617-32.htm

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 11:04pm BST

Yes, Simon - I think that judgments since the original publication indicate that this sort of post is not in the exempt category.

Certainly quoting 1990's policy will mean nothing at all in the light of the later legislation.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 11:36pm BST

Would parliament have the power to make different provisions for the CofE as the established church than it does for other churches?

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 12:33am BST

"Enforcement from the diocesan level is different, of course, and if a church was daft enough to ignore the guidelines which the CofE and the diocese have issued, then they would be torn to pieces by insurers and anyone else you can think of if something went wrong. We play it safe."

Glad to hear it.

What then puzzles me - what were the questions the bishop felt compelled to ask, if the job candidate had been thoroughly vetted beforehand?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 1:17am BST

Cynthia asks: What then puzzles me - what were the questions the bishop felt compelled to ask, if the job candidate had been thoroughly vetted beforehand?

My experience is that candidates are only vetted afterwards, and appointments are generally offered subject to checks. I recall interviews in one diocese where the necessary CRB forms were filled in on the interview day, with the proviso that they would only be actioned if the job was offered.
It is also quite normal for a person to be interviewed by a panel and subsequently, after the (conditional) offer of the post to see the bishop, if he was not himself a member of the appointing panel

In the present issue I think it would be wise to wait and see what comes out of the tribunal. The British press sometimes makes huge quantities of bricks with very little straw. One can never be sure until all the facts are out.

Posted by: cryptogram on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 9:52am BST

Parliament would have the power to do anything, but I don't think there would be a majority for 'special treatment' for the CofE.

A partial exemption was given to the Church to cover directly religious staff but that wasn't just for the CofE.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 10:47am BST

Cynthia,

I am puzzled by your post where you wrote "Are clergy and paid staff and vounteers who work with minors required to take a course or attend a presentation on prevention of child sexual abuse?"

This discussion is about homosexuality. A man who is attracted to another man. Why is child abuse relvant to this?

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 12:25pm BST

It's obvious enough that if a male or female youth worker were in a nonmarital heterosexual 'relationship' they would be equally unsuitable, and hopefully treated as such. But if it is the case that questions on this matter are directed only at homoseuxals, then it is right to complain of unequal treatment and discrimination. Not that the discrimination is any more or less against the one who is asked the questions than against the one who is not.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 12:59pm BST

"A partial exemption was given to the Church to cover directly religious staff but that wasn't just for the CofE."

I understand that was done as a general principle of freedom of religion. What I is was wondering was if parliament could set a stricter non-discrimination policy for the established church as a matter of public policy.

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 3:21pm BST

"This discussion is about homosexuality. A man who is attracted to another man. Why is child abuse relvant to this?"

I didn't make myself clear. I didn't at ALL mean to confuse sexuality with abuse behavior. That is one of the things that surprises some who take our training - the average pedophile is a married, middle-aged straight-identified male who preys on the handiest prepubescent child, regardless of gender, and qute often, the handiest are his own children.

What I meant was, if the job candidate had been vetted on things that matter - awareness of child sexual abuse issues - and had passed a criminal background check - then what possible questions about sex could the bishop have rationally had?

Do all non-married people who work for the C of E have to 'prove' they are celibate? Describe in detail how they are not?

Or does the bishop himself need some education?

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 3:23pm BST

Apollos,
Apparently *you* are the arbiter of who is and is not a practising Christian. Christ, apparently, has farmed the work out to you. I had no idea! You must be kept pretty busy making windows into men's souls to see whether they are or are not worthy of salvation. I shall prepare my dossier for your eyes and send it to you post haste, but I fear that my reading of Scripture differs from yours too much for me to actually be a Christian at all. Alas! I miss the days when we were saved by Christ's grace, and not by the theological orthodoxy of a TA troll with a pagan name.

Posted by: Caliban on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 3:27pm BST

Where does the legislation leave gay lay clerks, choral scholars, organists and choirmasters?

They are on a par with youth workers, in that grey area somewhere between the clergy and gardners in Lord Sainsbury's definition.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 4:01pm BST

"Not that the discrimination is any more or less against the one who is asked the questions than against the one who is not." Shell

Yep, will the REAL hedonist please stand up?

(don't hold your breath if your expecting heterosexual volunteers)

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 6:05pm BST

Cynthia,

Thanks for your very clear and very commendable clarification.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 6:13pm BST

John Reaney appears to have been acceptable to the Bishop of Chester but not the Bishop of Hereford which boggles my mind - a little!

Posted by: robert marshall on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 6:21pm BST

Hugh of Lincoln and others ask important questions.

Others make interesting observations based on propriety and constancy in dealing with matters of sexual ethics across the board.

If you have the time and inclination to read the outcome of the Judicial Review on these regulations then it is interesting to read them all - or from paragraph 88 if you are just interested in the religious bits. Simon has supplied the link some years ago - but I repeat it for you now. They may answer many questions as to the how wide the discrimination against lesbian and gay people can be. http://www.courtservice.gov.uk/judgmentsfiles/j2478/amicus-v-ssti.htm
It is important to remember that the presumption is AGAINST such discrimination and the findings of the Judicial Review tell of a very narrow set of circumstances when this might be allowed.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 7:02pm BST

His Grace of Chester has already had his own run-in with the Law !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 7:14pm BST

Richard ; I don't see why it should - already, the exemptions are quite tightly drawn. I think the church finds it difficult to cope with the direction of equalities legislation.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 2 April 2007 at 11:29pm BST

Maybe the days of "don't ask, don't tell" hypocrisy are coming to an end....but I expect we will see the law used to constrain freedom of thought and conscience in the CoE.....and we will find very few around here, sadly, who would defend freedom of speech (let alone the scriptures)

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 4:47pm BST

The above comment from a poster who does not have the confidence to identify themselves (NP) is typical of the pointless provocative posts that are only intended to inflame others to respond.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 8:31pm BST

Oh, they are free to believe as they wish, NP - pity that the Government didn't insist on full application of the law to them and abolish their exemption.

Still, I'm sure that will come in time.

In the meantime they can continue to apply their 'conscience', which appears to be about as ethical as that of the average BNP member. Good thing the law is there to at least rein in some of its excesses

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 8:48pm BST

C'mon be fair - there could be very good reasons why NP doesn't want to reveal his (or her!) identity. He could (for example) be a front-bench opposition spokesperson, or a BBC director or....

All the same, without a proper identity you feel only to be getting half a story, and the less interesting half at that. If NP works for (say) Ahmanson (unlikely!), then his/her postings gain a different significance. Simon S. did once put out a request for less total peusdonymity, and I often find the non-pseudonymous postings more valuable than their (effectively) anonymous counterparts.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 10:21pm BST

Curiously, the scope for discrimination in providing services open to religious organisations under the Goods and Services Regulations coming in is much wider than for employing people to provide them under the Employment Regulations. Was this youth worker post publicly funded so as to remove the service from the scope of that exemption?

Posted by: Cambriensis on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 10:22am BST

I find it really interesting that all the articles contradict themselves in their reporting of the event and the accusations against the bishop: if, having discovered that the person being interviewed was a *practicing* homosexual, then the bishop is NOT discriminating on the grounds of *orientation*. The bishop is making a decision of conscience in accordance with Scripture that says that the lifestyle choice to pursue relationship with someone of the same sex is not to be encouraged. A person appointed to a youth minister must set an example in his/her life and cannot live out a life in apposition to God's view in the Bible.

Posted by: Gayle on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 11:51am BST

"Mynster" - I think pseudonyms can be useful in helping us see the point and not the person....and I quite like imagining the scouser or rabbit talking to me.

Anyway, so everyone knows, I am just a chap who goes to a London CofE place and wants the CofE to stick to its scriptures and creeds because I think that is the right thing to do for the long term health of individuals and the church.

For mynster: I studied economics at Cambridge so I am a bit of a lefty as a result...bet that surprises you!

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 4:03pm BST

Er...no, NP, you can't be left-wing and a conservative evangelical. The two positions are diametrically opposed.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 5:23pm BST

in apposition to God's view in the Bible.

Posted by: Gayle on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 11:51am BST

What on earth does 'God's view in the Bible' actually mean ?

Is this a reference to texts developing from an Iron Age oral tradition ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 6:20pm BST

(slightly off-topic) I do find it useful to have some sort of idea of your perspective NP - for example, in that you are part of the Metropolitan set-up, it explains why sometimes you experiences are at odds with mine out in the provinces, where the ConsEv project is not nearly so obviously triumphant, and often seems to affect adversely other evangelical churches.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 10:29pm BST

Cambiensis,

My understanding of these 2 separate pieces of legislation is as follows:

The Sexual Orientation Regulations (Goods and Services) allow discrimination based on strongly held religious views provided public money is not involved and that there is no commercial activity. The regs don't cover employment.

The Employment Regulations allow organised religions to discriminate with regard to the clergy and a small number of other cases. It is one of these "other" cases that is being tested in the tribunal.

Gayle,

The law makes no distinction between orientation and practice. Only the church does. My hope is that the tribunal will not be sympathetic to the church's "policy" on this.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 11:40pm BST

Of course one can, Mynster. (I am surprised by your response)

a) A Cons Evo believes what the Bible says re look after the poor and do not accept injustice and can be "left wing" in this sense and see the flaws of capitalism (as well as socialism);
AND
b) A Cons Evo believes what the Bible says re actions which are and which are not acceptable to God.

The key is, of course, believing what the Bible says on various issues.

(So, linking to the thread, I don't think the good bishop of Hereford is being unjust, in the light of scripture.)

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 7:13am BST

The Bible is, read conservatively, a very right-wing, punitive collection of premodern books. The view that there is an all-powerful and controlling God who demands obedience is inherently right wing.

Scripture has little to do with justice, without the necessary and judicious use of the shredder.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 12:56pm BST

Merseymike, I agree with you that liberal Christians tend to be left wing and conservative Christians right wing. But your argument doesn't quite follow - although political lefties believe in equality, the instinct is to achieve it through powerfully controlling society. It's the political conservatives who are more willing to champion the individual.
From that point of view, NP's social conscience is more akin to that of Victorian patriarchial company owners than modern day Guardian readers, but no less credible.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 9:52pm BST
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