My news report on this, published in the Church Times last week, is now available here.
The statement that the diocese issued to me while I was preparing that article was previously published here and is below the fold.
The full context for that statement was unfortunately not included in the Church Times article as published. I reproduce below a longer version of my report.
Priddis now regrets but remains impenitent
THE Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, has said he now regrets “a lot of what has happened” in the case of unlawful discrimination against John Reaney. He lost the case (News, 20 July), but he has not changed his opinion, he said last Friday.
Bishop Priddis said in a witness statement: “I am very sorry for all the hurt and pain my decision not to appoint [him] has caused”, but he went on: “my opinion was, and still is, that at the time of the interview [he] did not have sufficient stability of life to give the assurances the Tribunal have found I was entitled to require of him.”
An employment tribunal at Cardiff last week adjourned before deciding on financial compensation and other remedies, which the parties had failed to agree privately in the four months since judgment was given in July. During the hearing, the chairman repeatedly urged the parties to seek agreement. No decision will now be issued until at least mid-January. A Stonewall spokesman said afterwards: “It is deeply regrettable that John has been forced to come back to endure further unnecessary cross-examination, which has been deeply distressing”.
Counsel for the diocese interrogated Mr Reaney as to why he did not apply for two similar posts recently advertised by Worcester and Guildford dioceses. Mr Reaney said that he lacked the confidence to seek any other church position after the way the bishop had treated him.
When asked whether or not the diocese would in future insert a reference to the employment regulations in its advertising, the bishop was hesitant: “We wouldn’t want to be in a position where we discourage people of homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation to apply for posts”. Later a diocesan spokesperson explained: “Given the judgement of the tribunal the only “safe” option to avoid future discrimination claims is for the Diocese to express a Genuine Occupational Requirement… This we do not wish to do… We are therefore seeking advice on how we can maintain the teachings of the Church without transgressing the law.”
The bishop took strong exception to adverse press reports, saying: “The media attention has, in my opinion, made matters worse for myself, the claimant and the Church of England as a whole.” He insisted the coverage had been “driven by Stonewall” particularly the Bigot of the Year Award. He said: “when they make derogatory statements about me personally, then that’s clearly hurtful to me”. Responding to this, Stonewall said: “The only person responsible for the media coverage is the bishop himself, who was found to have acted unlawfully”.
Here is what the Diocese of Hereford told me on Tuesday 11 December when I asked them to clarify the comments made by the Bishop of Hereford at the employment tribunal hearing in Cardiff on Friday 7 December:
“Given the judgement of the tribunal the only “safe” option to avoid future discrimination claims is for the Diocese to express a Genuine Occupational Requirement and claim exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulation 2003.
This we do not wish to do as we wish to encourage people of any sexual orientation to play a full part in the life of the Church and to apply for all Diocesan posts.
However, we also require those in leadership positions within the Diocese, and the DYO is such a position, to uphold, support and promote the doctrine of the Church of England. We are therefore seeking advice on how we can maintain the teachings of the Church without transgressing the law.”