£47,000 fine for Bishop sued by homosexual youth worker

The Diocese of Hereford has been ordered to pay £47,000 in compensation to a man who was turned down for a job as a youth worker because of his homosexual lifestyle.

John Reaney brought the Diocese to an employment tribunal after being questioned by the Bishop of Hereford about his homosexual lifestyle during a job interview.

The tribunal found that Mr Reaney, whose claim was funded by homosexual campaign group Stonewall, had been wrongly discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The original ruling was issued in July 2007, but it has taken until now to decide the question of compensation.

The case was decided under 2003 laws banning sexual orientation discrimination in employment. Strong Christian opposition to the introduction of the laws led to an exemption to protect appointments by churches and religious organisations.

The tribunal rejected Stonewall’s assertion that this exemption only applied to church ministers, and ruled that churches could also require a youth worker to adhere to their doctrines on marriage and celibacy.

It also found that a church could refuse to appoint a practising homosexual if a significant number of church members objected.

The tribunal rejected Mr Reaney’s claim that the Bishop’s questions about his lifestyle amounted to ‘harassment’. It ruled that he was upset, not by the questioning, but simply by the fact that the Bishop did not accept his answers.

However, the case was lost because Church of England teaching from the House of Bishops did not require Anglicans (other than ministers) to commit for life to celibacy or marriage.

The tribunal held that the Diocese should have been satisfied by Mr Reaney’s claim that he was celibate at the time of the interview and would remain celibate whilst employed by the church, even though he admitted he might have a homosexual relationship in the future.

Stonewall claimed the tribunal also required the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, to undergo “equal opportunities training”, which the group wanted to provide.

But the in-house training provided by its own human resources adviser had satisfied the tribunal, the Diocese said.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Hereford, Anni Holden, said the Diocese would review its recruitment policy:

“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.”

The Bishop said at the time of the initial ruling: “The tribunal accepted that I did not ‘interrogate’ Mr Reaney and that I had acted in accordance with the teachings of the Church of England.”

He added: “I still think that the decision I made was the right one.”

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