Bill Bowder has Wycliffe Hall admits breach of law over sacked lecturer:
THE Bishop of Liverpool and the Mayor of Kensington, named trustees of the Oxford theological college Wycliffe Hall, in an action brought against them and against the Hall’s Trustees as a body, have admitted this week that they broke employment legislation….
…Dr Storkey also claimed that she was religiously discriminated against by the college. That claim was now due to be tested at a two-day preliminary hearing on 11 and 12 June, which opened up the possibility of a “Punch and Judy” battle between conservative and liberal Evangelicals, the pre-hearing was told.
Mr Lewis said that the preliminary issue to be tested at that June meeting would be “whether the religion/belief rested on by the claimant in these proceedings which she defines as open Evangelicalism, liberal Evangelicalism, and/or membership of Fulcrum constitutes a religion or belief for the purposes of the 2003 regulations as distinct from conservative Evangelicalism”. Was open Evangelicalism “a religion or belief within the meaning of the regulations and could it attract the protection of the discrimination laws”, he wondered.
Mr Carr said that Dr Storkey, who chairs Fulcrum, was saying that she had a kind of belief that stood in distinction to conservative Evangelicalism. She would have to say that this nuanced difference between liberal open Evangelicals and conservative Evangelicals was a religion or belief protected by the discrimination laws.
The tribunal would have to decide whether those differences were enough to amount to a separate belief protected by the regulation. He said that the position of the Trustees was that there was no such difference. They believed that there was nothing in the regulations that required a further definition within a sub-set of beliefs.
For Dr Storkey, her counsel, Mr Charles Crow, said that she should not have to show that open Evangelicalism was a separate religion or belief, only that she had been discriminated against on the basis of those beliefs. That her beliefs might match the beliefs of others did not deprive her of protection. It would be sectarian to argue that she was protected only if she could that show her beliefs were different.
Mr Lewis said that the ability to make such theological distinctions was “wholly absent” from his job description; but the matter was important, and the tribunal would be prepared to hear it. He ruled that for the preliminary hearing one witness and one expert witness should be heard from both parties. They should exchange the papers they would rely on beforehand.