Thinking Anglicans

Jeremy Pemberton files employment tribunal claim

The following statement has been issued by the lawyers acting for Canon Jeremy Pemberton:

STATEMENT REGARDING LEGAL ACTION TAKEN BY JEREMY PEMBERTON

“Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first British clergyman to enter a same sex marriage, has confirmed that he has filed an Equality Act claim in the Employment Tribunal against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. The action is being brought because of the sanctions imposed upon him as a result of his marriage. Canon Pemberton married his long term partner Laurence Cunnington in April of this year. Shortly thereafter his permission to officiate was revoked and a licence for chaplaincy work was refused. This led to the withdrawal of a job offer from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Commenting on his decision to issue proceedings in respect of the alleged discrimination that he has suffered, Canon Pemberton said “I am deeply saddened that I have had to take this step against church authorities. However, I feel I have been left with little choice, having found myself being punished and discriminated against simply for exercising my right to marry. I will be making no further comment until these matters have been resolved through the court process.”

Among those assisting Canon Pemberton in his claim are Helen Trotter, a specialist employment and discrimination barrister from Kings Chambers and leading ecclesiastical lawyer, the Revd Justin Gau, from Pump Court Chambers.”

8th September 2014

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Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

One guesses this will be a stressful time for these lads as Jeremy tries to challenge the institutional homophobia so clearly demonstrated by this case, my thoughts and prayers are with them. I was at the tribunal when John Reaney challenged the bishop of Hereford (and won) for refusing to appoint him because he was gay. What struck me then was the alarming willingness to present opinion as fact and press interviews in airports as the doctrine of the CofE. There were a couple of moments when the truth was so badly mauled that my involuntary gasps brought the proceeding… Read more »

Jean Mayland (Revd)
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Jean Mayland (Revd)

Well done Jeremy and all the best with your claim

Jean

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s going to say this. But no matter what the technical result of this legal action is — even if the Church “wins” it — in the larger arena, the Church is going to lose here in a big way. The Church’s action in interfering with someone’s employment — for an employer that’s not even the Church — because he exercises his legal right to get married — regardless of any rationale the Church offers — is going to come across as petty, small-minded, vindictive, and thoroughly unChristian. Because it is. Anyone in… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Who is going to pay for the Bishops to defend the indefensible?

Ian Paul
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I don’t understand the logic of this. The ABof Y and Bp of Southwell and Nottingham are not his employer and were not involved directly in the appointment process.

If he has a case, surely it must be against the Hospital Trust…?

Robert ian Willaims
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Robert ian Willaims

Can any one blame him..when the Church of England has no fault divorce and remarriage. I also hope he brings out the anomaly that he is in “good standing” in another diocese.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

It will be interesting to see what the NHS Trust in question does. It might ask to have itself joined to the case, and in any event they’re going to get dragged in. The Bishops’ defence will be, I suspect, “we aren’t stopping him from working for the NHS Trust in question, it’s their decision to demand the accreditations we offer, and we are entitled to determine who works for us (which he hasn’t applied to do) because of our exemption from discrimination legislation”. Legally (as opposed to morally, decently, etc) that argument looks reasonably sensible.

Chris H
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Chris H

So, if he wins, are all denominations and churches, mosques, etc. going to have to have gay married priests? Since gay marriage is legal are all religions going to have to accept them?

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

” …. were not involved directly in the employment process “ They clearly were directly involved in this process, as the process requires the bishop to consent to the appointment. I can’t see how this can be construed as not directly involved in the appointments process. Of course Ian Paul is one of those defenders of the anti gay stance of the CofE It is interesting that people like Paul resist the idea that they are unaccountable for the evil policies they promulgate. Otherwise Interested Observer throws up a perfectly reasonable defence. The health service is unlike the Army and… Read more »

John
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John

Glad to see this. May the good prevail.

Jeremy (non P)
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Jeremy (non P)

Ian Paul, this sentence is your answer: “Shortly thereafter his permission to officiate was revoked and a licence for chaplaincy work was refused.”

Well done, Jeremy P!

Legal action is no picnic. Good luck, and be assured that you are doing the right thing.

Ian Paul
Guest

These last two comments then mean: he doesn’t have a hope. And I suspect he knows that.

So what is the purpose of the action? To close down any conversation.

aldwyn
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aldwyn

The CofE and other religious org may have got that legal change in the equality act to allow them to not employ vicars in a SSM but why on earth does the CofE want to pursue this case. They’re not that popular anyway and many MPs already think they should be disestablished unless they are there for all of society. After all the CofE have a very inconsistent policy on same sex relationships and most poeple would find it odd that some vicars can get married or do a CP and not be punished while others are not.

alan marsh
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alan marsh

Canon Pemberton can not win his case. The Church of England’s position is protected by the Equality Act, which was amended specifically for this purpose by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

With reference to some of the comments above, the facts of the case and the legal arguments relating to them are far more complex than some commentators may realise.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Chris H,
no, no church nor religious group will ever be required to accept married gay clergy within their structures.

The question is how far the opt out of the equalities legislation reaches, and whether the church is within its rights to block someone from employment in a secular organisation that is not protected by the opt-out.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

As an observer from the other side of the Anglican world; may I ask whether the NHS is legally obliged to refuse chaplaincy employment to a clergy-person licensed by a different diocese – rather than the diocese of its geographical NHS situation?

Alastair Newman
Guest

“So what is the purpose of the action? To close down any conversation.”

How on earth can a tribunal action be construed as an attempt to close down conversation? I suspect that all sides will have quite a lot to say actually. Whether you believe this to be a constructive form of conversation is perhaps a different matter, but I imagine Canon Pemberton will feel (quite rightly) that his attempts to discuss this with the authorities involved have already been ignored to the point of effectively closing down conversation…

Disgraced
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Disgraced

I am not sure that the only value in this case is in the ‘winning’. Making people defend an unjust system and an unjust institution is the best way to expose the nonsense for what it is. Civil rights movements have used the tool of making people defend the indefensible very effectively. Many battles against inequality based on race, gender and sexuality have been furthered by court action which ‘lost’ but scored a win in the court of public opinion and common sense. Having said that, I wish Jeremy all the best with his case. The personal cost of taking… Read more »

Jeremy (non P)
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Jeremy (non P)

“So what is the purpose of the action? To close down any conversation.”

This is ever the cry of the defendant that has to explain its actions in a neutral forum.

“Why couldn’t we have remained in ‘conversation’–a ‘conversation’ in which we possess the power and you do not?”

Jill Armstead
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Jill Armstead

I guess Canon JP is bringing a discrimination action against the bishops in respect of their decision to revoke his licence because he married his partner – they would not have revoked a heterosexual priest’s licence in the same circumstances. Given that the CofE had not formulated any rules or punishment for rule-breakers before coming down on him, he could well be successful. The fact that he failed to secure a job as a result would be a factor in compensation should his claim be successful. I wonder whether the tribunal is the right jurisdiction – but then I do… Read more »

Adrian Judd
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Adrian Judd

This is the kind of reply he will probably get in my opinion – it’s in 2 parts.

Part One

There is and was no employer-employee relationship.

The ET has no jurisdiction.

The claim is vexatious.

Part Two

Even if an employer-employee relationship existed:
a) it would have been with the NHS Trust
b) the C of E is exempt from the Equality Act 2010

James Byron
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James Byron

Ian, I can’t speak for the motives of others, but I think it’s far likelier that he wants an injustice acknowledged and, so far as is possible, put right.

Martin, I disagree with Ian’s position, but he’s an open evangelical who holds it out of a nuanced reading of the Bible. If church policy is to change, it’s moderates like him who must be persuaded.

Tim Chesterton
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I expect that, once again – as has happened on both sides of the issue in church property disputes in TEC – we are going to be given all sorts of sophisticated reasons why 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not apply to this situation?

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Tim, nothing sophisticated about it. A fair dispute among equals is one thing. What we have here is a bully who put out a quick statement, that may or may not be legal even within its own framework. When tested, they did not use either of the two disciplinary processes to assess the legality of the situation, but without any due process made sure that someone who had not been tried or convicted of anything lost a job offer. Many of us have since written to the church and tried to get the bishops to reconsider. We did not even… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

I agree, Jill. This was done without any due process or right of appeal. The church’s exemptions are not unlimited, and must be exercised fairly and proportionately.

Prominent open evangelicals like Ian Paul could support Jeremy’s case on due process grounds, without changing their theology of sexuality. Such support would be right in itself, and signal détente with LGBT Anglicans. How about it, Ian?

Jill Armstead
Guest
Jill Armstead

Adrian Judd:

The Equality Act exemption relating to religious organisations allows them to discriminate on the grounds of religion, belief or sexual orientation ‘in certain circumstances’.
In my view, because the CofE had not formulated its grounds for revoking JP’s licence (I understand the matter is under some sort of extended discussion period?)It just might not get away with it.

Christopher
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Christopher

Tim Chesterton: The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Archbishop of York, Primate of England, is clearly not a member of an oppressed Christian minority in first century Greece. He is a member of Parliament and it is appropriate for him to be challenged in the Queen’s courts to the extent that he violates the laws established by Parliament.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Tim Chesterton, would that be the same 1 Corinthians that tells us that “the head of every woman is the man”?

See also id. 34-35:

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Please explain what kind of authority you ascribe to 1 Cor. 14:34-35?

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

I wonder how Tim Chesterton would feel if he were sacked just for getting married. Would he apply an unsophisticated bible quote?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

At first sight, I’d agree with Adrian’s analysis.

However, solicitors don’t set out to make fools of themselves, so presumably there is a legal theory that has been written on more than a fag packet as to why the case won’t be immediately rejected.

I would have thought that the more obvious path was to bring an action against the NHS Trust and leave it to them to explain their reasoning and (probably) involve the church. But let’s wait for the ET.

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Note that the Equality Act 2010 specifies that an Employment Tribunal has jurisdiction to determine a complaint relating to a contravention of Part 5 (work) [see section 120 of the Act, there are some irrelevant exceptions]. Part 5 (sections 39-83) covers more than Employer-Employee relationships e.g. Office Holders, Partners, Trade Organisations, Barristers etc.

Adrian Judd
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Adrian Judd

Perhaps I should make clear that I am not supporting the arguments I mentioned, and they do look like they were written on the back of a cigarette packet, but they are the sort of arguments that I expect to find in the initial response to the submission of the ET1 form. The mere retelling of these arguments doesn’t mean the case will be thrown out, it’s more like round one of a 10 round boxing match, where the opponents are sizing each other up, and ducking and weaving round the ring, trying to get in an early blow. The… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Tim, taking your Corinthians quote seriously, what would you make of this “I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” When the church is supposedly of one mind? When one of the accused is the second highest office holder in the church? Would you honestly say that there was anyone who was in a genuine position to judge? That there were the structures in place to allow that process to take place? And if there isn’t, can we then say, shameful though it may be… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

The bishops pastoral statement was disastrous and I think at least some of them know it. Some will tell you it was far better than it could have been. It is what they will be defending if they go to court over this. I say ‘if’ because I think what we now need is a campaign to encourage the bishops to say that they were wrong and to find a way to settle this dispute without going to court. Pete Broadbent sometimes reads and comments here and did an amazing job of getting a steering committee/process together for the recent… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Good morning all from Alberta, where the Lord blessed us with a good dump of snow yesterday. I’ll try to respond to the various answers thoroughly. For the record, I think those who know me will know that I have consistently opposed legal action between Christians through the years (on the grounds not only of 1 Cor. 6:1-8 but also of Jesus’ teaching of how we respond when we are wronged), whether it was initiated by liberals or conservatives, and I have told some of my conservative colleagues that they are compromising their commitment to the authority of scripture by… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Second period’. Jeremy, your argument is not just an argument to dismiss 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 but also the entire New Testament; it basically says, ‘1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is clearly wrong, therefore we can’t accept the authority of anything Paul says anywhere in 1 Corinthians’ (kind of tough, when 1 Corinthians gives us our earliest witness to the Lord’s Supper and the Body of Christ teaching). My response would be to say that Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is clearly consistent with the teaching of Jesus about how Christians are to treat those who wrong them, and also with other… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

DavidH asks how I would feel if I had been sacked just for getting married. I think the answer to that one is obvious; I would be hurt, upset and angry, just as Jeremy is.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Erika, with regard to yours of 10 September 9.15, I have no idea what legal structures are in place in the Church of England. I know that in the equivalent canons of the Anglican Church of Canada there are clearly structures in place to deal with the situation of one of the alleged offenders being the Primate. I would be very, very surprised if there are no parallel provisions in the canons of the Church of England, but I can’t speak to that.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

I’m not terribly worried about legal action. It’s not a sign of failure, it’s not anything negative in particular. When you have new laws, and the Marriage Equality Act is a new law, there is always a grey area about its application and about how it affects other laws and regulations. If the parties in question cannot agree, it makes perfect sense to take the matter before the courts to decide. We can leave accusations of un-Christian behaviour out of this. That’s always a hurtful and completely pointless two-way slanging match. There are legal questions here, two sides have different… Read more »

Richard
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Richard

I don’t know about the use of an Employment Tribunal, but it is established (E&W) that an individual can seek redress for the content of a reference (or even, I think, refusal to provide a reference) that stops him/her from getting a job. The Bishop’s refusal to grant a licence could be seen as parallel to refusal to give a reference, so even if not the employer the Diocese can still be taken to court.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“Jeremy, your argument is not just an argument to dismiss 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 but also the entire New Testament.”

No, it is the very Anglican argument that we must interpret Scripture using reason and tradition.

We believe that the Hebrew Bible and New Testament contain “all things necessary to salvation.” But you will admit, surely, that they also contain much else.

Jeremy (non P)
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Jeremy (non P)

Tim, a further comment/question. You say, “By contrast, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a disputed passage that does not have a fixed address in the canon of scripture.” In other words, in light of reason and tradition we no longer view it as authoritative. Even textually, the reading that you ascribe to 6:1-8 is only one of two literal meanings. Does this passage tell us not to litigate among ourselves at all? Or does it say that we may litigate, but that we must do so in Christian courts? If the former, reason and experience tell us that crimes, abuses, torts… Read more »

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

A few comments (really more like a few questions) responding to the comments about 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. Certainly it’s a scandal when Christians sue each other in the secular courts. But is this an absolute rule applicable at all time and in all circumstances? During the disputes in TEC over the last 40 years groups unhappy with TEC left TEC, attempted to take church property with them, and taunted that TEC was acting unchristian under this passage for suing them to get the property back. In the vast majority of cases, the courts in fact ruled that these groups were… Read more »

Roger Antell
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Roger Antell

Tim C’s position is a perfectly honourable one and consistent with an acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God. As a priest I heed his (and my) ordination promise to accept the Bible as containing all things necessary to salvation.But that does not mean that I have to accept literally everything it says. There is much of the Old Testament, for example, that we would not treat as normative for Christian ethics and behaviour today (and I agree that there is still much we can follow). The same applies to a lesser degree over the NT. We just… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

If we’re looking to the House of Bishops to set an example on the question of whether fellow members of the Church should settle their disputes in court then we need look no further than their pastoral statement with its threat of CDMs for clergy. The claim seems to have a reasonable prospect of success. An existing employee of the NHS with a CofE licence is denied a promotion in another part of the organisation solely because of the discriminatory actions of the bishops in direct contravention of the Equality Act as it applies to public sector organisations. It would… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Certainly it’s a scandal when Christians sue each other in the secular courts”

In the 2012 census, 59.3% of the adult population self-identified as Christian. Do you therefore believe that use of the secular courts to resolve disputes amongst nearly 60% of the population — unpaid rent, liability for car accidents, planning disputes, arguments over wills, copyright claims, medical negligence, personal injury — is all “scandalous”? Is the church planning to run an alternative dispute resolution service at a scale to deal with 33.2 million people’s affairs? Seriously?

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

In general I have no time for such things.
Christians should indeed be examples of boundless love rather than vexatious litigants.
But here the bishop is acting in his judicial role and has issued summary judgment. In many peoples eyes this is unjust and falls far short of what Christian love compels , for the sake of the Christian community the reasons behind this punishment need to be opened up to public scrutiny.
The tribunal, rather than a court, offers an excellent format to explore the bishops ungodly actions.

MarkBrunson
Guest

So, if I, a Christian, break an agreement with you, a Christian, and, say, defraud you or evict you from your home without cause, or fire you without cause, you would, of course, Tim, simply be pleasant and make no attempt to go to court with that, yes? To expand on Erika’s point, does your reading of Paul include the idea of wrongdoing by the church itself against an individual. If the church is corrupt, where, other than courts, can one hope for a just hearing? I will be impressed with the continual cries of “Corinthians! Paul! Corinthians! Paul!” from… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

……….. Whereas if the bishop had stolen Jeremy’s surplice from its hook in the cathedral vestry, I am confident that Canon Pemberton would have been swift to offer him his lace cotta too ……….