Stonewall backs gay youth worker in case against bishop
The Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford is accused of blocking the application of a gay man to work within his diocese.
John Reaney, 42, was previously employed as a youth officer for the Norwich and Chester Church of England diocese.
Within the application form for a similar job in Hereford, Mr Reaney admitted that he was gay. Following a successful interview, he was told that subject the consent of the Bishop, he would be appointed. However, after meeting Mr Priddis, he was told that he was not selected for the position.
During the forthcoming tribunal, the Bishop will give evidence and it is set to reignite the debate over homosexuality within the Anglican communion. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, last week said the church should be a “safe place” for gay men and women.
The regulations preventing discrimination as a result of sexuality do not apply to religious organisations but are generally only thought to apply to the appointment of clerics.
Bindman Partners, representing Mr Reaney is to argue that the exemption does not apply to the position he applied for as it was a non clerical role.
Alison Downie, who will represent him at the hearing, said: “My client is a committed Christian who has devoted his life to sharing his Christian faith with others. The church discriminated against him on the grounds of his sexual orientation when the bishop refused to confirm his appointment to a post. He feels that he has been denied the opportunity to contribute to the work of the church.”
A spokesman for the Bishop told the Sunday Telegraph said: “John Reaney did not get the job he applied for in the diocese. We expect the same sexual standards of behaviour from support ministers, or lay ministers, as we do of clergy.”
Stonewall Chief Executive, Ben Summerskill who is supporting Mr Reaney told the Observer: “It seems to be evidence of very real prejudice within the Church of England which completely undermines the claims we have heard recently from bishops and others that they have respect for gay people. It is utterly inappropriate that the church or anyone else should seek to summarily dismiss or refuse to employ someone simply on the basis of sexual orientation and that is why Stonewall is supporting the case. This is the first time that this will be tested in a completely open tribunal and it is absolutely proper that the Bishop of Hereford himself is required to attend.”