A bishop who asked a gay job applicant a series of humiliating questions and then rejected him for the post on the grounds of his sexuality was named Bigot of the Year at the Stonewall Awards last night.
The gay equality organisation’s chief executive Ben Summerskill told an audience of 400 gathered at the Victoria Albert museum in London that the Bishop of Hereford had been invited but claimed to be on holiday.
Today a spokesperson for the bishop told the BBC the diocese would not be making any comment about last night’s dubious award as Bigot of the Year.
The bishop joins last year’s “winner” Chris Moyles in the Hall of Shame.
John Reaney was previously employed as a youth officer for the Norwich and Chester Church of England diocese.
In an application form for a similar job in Hereford, Mr Reaney stated that he is gay.
Following a successful interview he was told that, subject the consent of the bishop, he would be appointed.
The Right Reverend Anthony Priddis, the 104th Bishop of Hereford, admitted to an employment tribunal in April that he had asked Mr Reaney a series of questions about his sex life during their meeting.
When he found out that the youth worker had recently come out of a five-year relationship, the bishop said he did not feel that:
“It would not have been right for me to take an undertaking of his head that his heart could not keep,” namely that he would remain celibate, in line with church teachings.
The bishop decided Mr Reaney was not suitable for the job. The rejection hit left him dejected.
“The hardest thing was the feeling of worthlessness that came from the bishop’s decision,” he explains.
Mr Reaney was shocked that, in the Church of England, a bishop could be so blind to the skills that each person can bring to a key role such as youth worker:
“It is about getting to know the individual – I think sometimes people just take the sexuality and ignore the fact that this is a person.
“A lot of people who know me and found out this case was happening were quite surprised it was me, and that I am gay, but that has been positive.”
A tribunal agreed with Mr Reaney that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation.
He continues to work with young people, and is glad he took action. .
“I know what you go through to get to this point. You have got to have personal strength to get through this.
“If you can find the support, as I did with Stonewall, and the team.
“It is not a decision to be taken lightly, you have to understand that there are consequences, in terms of the stress.
“It is not done overnight, it is a long process. I am now getting on with the rest of my life.”
The nomination of two senior bishops as Bigot of the Year angered an evangelical group of Scottish Christians.
CARE Scotland said the nomination of the Bishop of Hereford and the Archbishop of Birmingham was an insult and in a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond called on the Scottish government to stop working with Stonewall.
The Archbishop of Birmingham was nominated for speaking out against new goods and services protections for gay people, threatening to close welfare services and adoption agencies unless the government agreed to sweeping exemptions.
Other nominees for Bigot of the Year were Jeremy Clarkson, Ian Paisley Jnr and Roman Catholic activist Patricia McKeever.