My Church Times articles published in last week’s paper edition are now available on the web:
Quotes from the bishop:
Talking to the Church Times last week, the Bishop said that he had consulted the diocesan registrar on four separate occasions during the course of the recruitment, and believed he had followed the advice given. He was therefore surprised at the tribunal’s judgment, which, he said, was puzzling and in some ways inconsistent. A particular concern to him was that it felt able to override his own pastoral judgement, based on 35 years’ experience.
He awaited further advice from the lawyers on whether to appeal, but he also needed them to advise on changes to diocesan procedures to avoid future problems. “I am disappointed that the judgment spends so much time focusing on the 1991 House of Bishops teaching document Issues in Human Sexuality, and so little on the more important decision of General Synod in 1987.”
The Bishop insisted that in rejecting Mr Reaney he was upholding the 1987 teaching of the General Synod that “holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders,” which was not limited to the clergy.
My concluding paragraphs:
The tribunal found the facts of this case so compelling that it found in Mr Reaney’s favour without needing to rely on the discriminatory nature of the underlying Church of England policy of “marriage or abstinence”. The marker laid down here, however, and the inherent difficulty of proving justification, suggests that any future case might well succeed in a claim of indirect discrimination.
On the other hand, the ease with which this tribunal accepted that this officer-level post fell within the ambit of the religious exemption will be of concern to those who had imagined that only top-level lay employees in dioceses and at the National Church Institutions were affected.
Last Tuesday’s edition of The Times carried a profile of the barrister who represented John Reaney. Sandhya Drew said this about the case:
What were the main challenges in this case and the implications of the decision?
The challenges were having to deal with the culture of fear and concealment surrounding sexual orientation in the Church of England. What was very striking, however, was the amount of support for John Reaney from Christians of all sexual orientations, not only within the Church of England but within the Diocese of Hereford itself. The main implication of the decision is that organised religions should not assume that they can rely on an exemption from the law against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. Lesbian and gay people of faith make a significant contribution to all the leading world religions and the law will protect them where necessary.
The case is cited in an article in Personnel Today Weekly dilemma: Job interviews.