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Bishop’s sex questions embarrassed me, tribunal told

PinkNews Staff Writer April 5, 2007
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A bishop of the Church of England asked a gay man a series of highly personal questions about his sex life as part of a job interview, an employment tribunal in Cardiff was told today.

John Reaney is bringing the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance to the tribunal, claiming that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his sexuality.

At a meeting with the Bishop of Hereford in July last year, he was asked about his sexual relationships, he said.

“I made it very clear to the bishop that I was not seeking a relationship and would adhere to his wishes if I were under his authority,” Mr Reaney told the tribunal, according to

“I would communicate with him if I was struggling. He asked me ‘what would you do if you met someone?’

“I told that if I felt a relationship might develop in the future, I would discuss it with him.

“However, I reiterated to him that I was not in a sexual relationship and I did intend to remain that way and I explicitly told him that I was certainly happy to remain celibate for the duration of the post.”

Mr Reaney was previously employed as a youth officer for the Norwich and Chester Church of England diocese.

After meeting Bishop Priddis, he was told that he was not selected for the position in the Hereford diocese.

Mr Reaney told the tribunal that after the interview he took two days off work because he was distressed, and felt ashamed of his treatment at the hands of the bishop.

Yesterday Bishop Priddis told the tribunal that when he found out Mr Reaney had recently come out of a five-year gay relationship, 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.

Mr Reaney confirmed that he had been open with the bishop about his previous relationship, and that he was asked if he thought it “appropriate” for a youth worker to be involved in a gay relationship.

“I turned to the Bishop and said ‘before we go any further what is your stance?’ ” Mr Reaney told the tribunal.

“His words to me were ‘whilst many of our colleagues are becoming more liberal on the issue, I find myself becoming more conservative.’

“At this point my heart sank. That was the turning point in the conversation for me.”

Mr Reaney asserts that a straight person applying for the same job would not have been asked similar questions about their sexual history.

Yesterday, Bishop Priddis told the tribunal that he decided not to hire Mr Reaney as he felt he would not be able to remain celibate.

“Mr Reaney’s lifestyle had the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese,” the bishop told the tribunal, according to the Daily Mail.

“The Church’s teachings draws distinction between sexual orientation and practice and lifestyle.

“We didn’t discriminate against Mr Reaney on the grounds of sexuality. Had we done so we wouldn’t have called him for an interview.”

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