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Judge says it was unlawful for Anglican Bishop to refuse youth worker post to homosexual

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A gay man has won his case for unlawful discrimination after he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop.


The employment tribunal said John Reaney, 42, was discriminated against "on grounds of sexual orientation" by the Hereford diocesan board of finance.


Mr Reaney, from Colwyn Bay, Conwy, said he was "delighted" at the decision.


The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, said he was "naturally disappointed" and may appeal.


During the tribunal in Cardiff in April, Mr Reaney said he was questioned by Bishop Priddis on his previous gay relationship during a two-hour meeting on 19 July 2006


It came after he was told he had emerged as the outstanding candidate for the job during an eight-man interview, the hearing heard.


Mr Reaney, whose case was supported by Stonewall, also told the tribunal he was left "very embarrassed and extremely upset" following the meeting and said he felt like "a total waste of space".


During his evidence, Bishop Priddis said he had made clear to Mr Reaney that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would be turned down for the post.


But the tribunal found that the Bishop should only have considered the present lifestyle of Mr Reaney, who is single, and he should have not questioned his future relationships.


Delivering the judgement, the tribunal said the case would now be listed for a remedy hearing.


"The respondents discriminated against the claimant on the grounds of sexual orientation," said the judgement.


Mr Reaney, who had already worked in two other Anglican dioceses, where he had been praised for his achievements, said he was delighted.


He said the case "demonstrated to many lesbian and gay Christians working for God within the Church of England that they are entitled to fair and respectful treatment".


But speaking to a news conference in Hereford on Wednesday, the Bishop said: "I still think the decision I made was the right one."


"I regret the polarisation of view which takes place when these things happen," he said, adding he had made the decision after a "great deal of prayer and contemplation".


'Not exempt'


Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said the verdict was "a triumph for 21st Century decency over 19th Century prejudice".


"We're very happy for John," he said.


"The tribunal has rightly made clear that the Church of England cannot discriminate against gay people with impunity. No-one, not even a bishop, is exempt from the law."


Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation, but the law does contain an exemption for organised religion.”

LCF comment

At first sight this judgment appears to be a serious affront to the freedom for churches to guarantee that their children and teenagers are being taught by people who are living according to the Bible’s clear teaching about sexual morality. The law is shifting rapidly so that where there is a ‘competition of rights’ it is the homosexual’s right that trumps the Christian’s right. This is a situation that needs to be reversed. At the very least, our law should recognise conscience exemptions for Christians so that they can live according to their faith. A fuller analysis of the situation will be made once we have received a copy of the judgment.

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