Current Affairs

Bishop guilty of gay discrimination

Tony Grew July 18, 2007
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An employment tribunal has ruled in favour of John Reaney, the gay man who brought a claim of discrimination claim against the Bishop of Hereford.

The case was supported and funded by Stonewall.

John Reaney was interviewed by a panel of eight people for the post of Youth Officer in the Diocese of Hereford last summer.

However, a unanimous decision to appoint him was blocked by the Bishop of Hereford after a meeting in which Mr Reaney was humiliatingly cross-examined by the Bishop about his private life.

In its judgement, the tribunal said:

“The respondents discriminated against the claimant on the grounds of sexual orientation. The case will now be listed for a remedy hearing.”

Mr Reaney is set to secure substantial compensation.

He said he was delighted that the Bishop of Hereford has lost this case.

“It demonstrates to many lesbian and gay Christians working for God within the Church of England that they are entitled to fair and respectful treatment.

“I’m very grateful indeed to Stonewall for their support throughout this case. I’m also grateful to my solicitor Alison Downie of Bindman Partners and barrister Sandyha Drew for all their work.”

Alison Downie said:

“My client is pleased that he has won his claim. The Bishop and the Diocese were wrong and unlawfully discriminated against him because he is a gay man in refusing to appoint an excellent candidate to the post of Youth Officer.

“In this landmark test case the tribunal found not only that he suffered direct discrimination but that if necessary they would have found indirect discrimination in the Diocese imposing a requirement of celibacy for lay people in employment within the Church.

“It is highly regrettable that the Bishop acted as he did and that my client lost a year of his life in bringing this claim to right the wrong done to him.”

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said: “This outcome is a triumph for 21st century decency over 19th century prejudice.

“We’re very happy for John. The tribunal has rightly made clear that the Church of England cannot discriminate against gay people with impunity. No one, not even a Bishop, is exempt from the law.”

Mr Reaney, who lives in north Wales, went to Stonewall Cymru’s Cardiff office for advice and, given its importance, Stonewall supported and funded his case throughout.

Stonewall argued that a heterosexual person would not have been subject to the same level of intrusive questioning as Reaney. The case was heard over four days in Cardiff in April.

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