Gay Christian Awarded Approximately $94,000 for Discrimination by The Church of England.

John Reaney

John Reaney took the Hereford diocesan board of finance to an employment tribunal after his appointment as a youth worker was blocked.

Bishop Anthony Priddis
Bishop of Hereford Anthony Priddis has apologised and gay rights group Stonewall said the “substantial compensation” sent a clear message. Mr Reaney, from Colwyn Bay, Conwy, said he was delighted the case was over. “Lesbian and gay Christians working within the Church of England are entitled to be treated with humanity,” said Mr Reaney, 42.

Mr Reaney applied for the vacant post of youth officer within the Hereford diocese in May 2006. During the tribunal in April 2007 Mr Reaney said the members of the eight-strong interview panel had recommended him for the job and the appointment just needed the approval of the bishop. During a two-hour meeting in July, Mr Reaney claimed the bishop questioned him about a gay relationship.

Sexual orientation

Three days later the bishop phoned him to say he had been unsuccessful. In his evidence to the original tribunal, Bishop Priddis said anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage would have been rejected. However the tribunal last month ruled Mr Reaney, who now lives in Cardiff, had been discriminated against “on the grounds of sexual orientation”.

Bishop of Hereford Anthony Priddis has apologised.  Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: “We’re delighted that the tribunal has sent such a robust signal, both to the bishop and other employers. “The substantial level of compensation sends out a very clear message. Not even a bishop is above this law.”

The award is made up of £7,000 damages for psychiatric injury, £6,000 for injury to feelings, £25 for costs incurred in seeking work, £1,320 cost of counselling, £25,000 for future loss of wages and £8,000 for future pension loss. Anni Holden, spokeswoman for the diocese of Hereford, said the legal costs of the case to the diocese were being met by an anonymous donation. “We are glad we can draw a line under this unhappy situation. It has been a difficult time for all of us involved in the tribunal,” she said. “It has been a long drawn-out process and we are pleased that it is finally complete. “We are now aware that when making such an appointment we must make it clear if it is a genuine occupational requirement that the post-holder should believe in and uphold the Christian belief and ideal of marriage, and that sexual relationships are confined to marriage. This is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation.”

What sort of impact could this have on homosexual Mormons in the UK who are seeking jobs within the Mormon community such as temple workers, CES etc.?    Could the requirement for a temple recommend as part of a job be discrimination?

Comments

comments

13 comments for “Gay Christian Awarded Approximately $94,000 for Discrimination by The Church of England.

  1. Kent
    February 13, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Hard to say, since this is the State’s church in this case. If we paid our clergy, a similar scenario might have merit; but I doubt a gay member could get money for a volunteer job.

  2. berrykat
    February 13, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    You can be homosexual and be a temple worker now you just have to be celibate.

  3. February 13, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Interesting story, Steve.

    I think the short answer to you question at the end is “No.” U.S. courts recognize that churches may require their employees to uphold certain religious standards as a “bona fide occupational requirement.” Under U.S. law, a church’s right to have religious requirements for its employees is part of the free exercise of religion and freedom of association. The article suggests to me that the UK has the same or a similar law.

    The problem churches sometimes run into is that they fail to make clear that observing x, y, and z is a requirement for the job. If a church fails to make those requirements known, then it calls into question whether the religious requirement that was cited to deny an applicant the job is, in fact, a religious requirement that is consistently applied to other applicants and employees.

    It appears the Church of England’s problem here was that it failed to make clear that abstaining from sex outside marriage was a job requirement. So when the gay applicant was denied the job, the church could not successfully argue that he was not hired due to his failure to satisfy a “bona fide occupational requirement.”

    So to be clear, unless I am really misinterpreting something, this case is not saying that the Church of England must hire gays regardless of the church’s religious beliefs. Rather, the decision is saying that if the Church of England wants to make abstinence from sex outside of marriage a bona fide occupational requirement of its employees, it needs to clearly make that fact known up front, and to consistently apply that rule. that is reflected by the final quote from the church representative at the end of the article:

    “We are now aware that when making such an appointment we must make it clear if it is a genuine occupational requirement that the post-holder should believe in and uphold the Christian belief and ideal of marriage, and that sexual relationships are confined to marriage. This is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation.”

    That’s my understanding. I am perfectly willing to be corrected by any employment lawyers out there.

  4. February 13, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks for the posts guys. I am sure the church has thought this through thoroughly but could there be any area of church employment where this could occur or do we have all our job position requirements well defined in all aspects of discrimination? Does having a lay clergy mean that the church is under less threat of legal redress?

  5. February 13, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Steve, I’m not familiar with what the LDS church does to document its “bona fide occupational requirements,” but assuming it does document them, it would be legal for the church to decline to hire people who fail to meet them. I don’t know that having a lay clergy has much to do with it.

    It’s a clash of two legally recognized rights: an individual’s right to be free of discrimination, and a church or other organization’s right to operate pursuant to its religious beliefs, ideals, etc. When the two collide, the latter usually prevails. This applies to organizations that are not even churches, under the constitutionally-recognized freedom of association. For example, when a gay man sued the Boy Scouts for refusing to allow him to be a Scout leader, the case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that under the First Amendment’s freedom of association, the Boy Scouts had the right to define for itself its criteria for eligibility.

    Courts and legislatures are not allowed to second-guess those criteria or trump them with their own notions of morality or reasonableness. If a court or legislature could impose its own notions of morality and reasonableness on a church or other association–essentially defining a church’s morality code for it–there wouldn’t be much freedom of religion or association in that.

  6. Ricercar
    February 13, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    I think the LDS church has litigated one of the leading cases on this matter. The law in the United States is extremely different than the UK or Canada (where I practice). The case is Amos v. BYU Gymnasium (I think). My recollection is that a new requirement was added to the job to hold a valid temple recommend or be a member. The guy didn’t feel the ‘Paris is worth a baptism’ feeling and sued for constructive dismissal. The courts upheld the right of a church (as private employer) to impose a religious test on their employees. I recommend you look the case up because it is interesting reading and I don’t even know where to begin to interpret US employment law. In Canada, there are similar protections subject limits of the Charter.

  7. February 13, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Ricercar, you probably mean the Deseret gymnasium case that started when a user was unhappy being sworn at by an employee.

    Interesting stuff, how things develop.

  8. February 13, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    The U.S. case that Ricercar mentions is Amos v Presiding Bishop, it’s at 483 U.S. 327. It’s a very important case discussing the religious exemption to U.S. Federal antidiscrimination law. The opinion can be found at any number of free websites, including at http://supreme.justia.com/us/483/327/case.html

    I don’t know enough about UK antidiscrimination law to analyze how the question would come out in the UK.

  9. Carlos
    February 13, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I think some folks here are misreading this story.

    UK law has provisions in it (as Australian law has) to allow church groups, or all-women groups and others, to discriminate based on sex or sexual orientation or religious background, but there are steps to follow to obtain this exception. What the Hereford diocese selection committee did wrong was to not label this as a church only position where applicants must commit to the Anglican standards with regards to marriage and sexual orientation.

    The spokesperson was clear, and as Andrew pointed out here:

    “We are now aware that when making such an appointment we must make it clear if it is a genuine occupational requirement that the post-holder should believe in and uphold the Christian belief and ideal of marriage, and that sexual relationships are confined to marriage. This is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation”

    Therefore the answer to the Recommends question is ‘NO’; and this case is irrelevant to gay issues but only to HRM and how HR advertises a job vacancy.

  10. February 14, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Carlos, it’s great to see we agree 100% on something, buddy. Let’s remember this day so next time we disagree each of us realizes the other is capable of being right sometimes. 🙂

  11. Carlos
    February 14, 2008 at 5:43 am

    Goodness! I’m agreeing with a lawyer? Gotta check my medicine now…..feeling dizzy…… 🙂

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