Current Affairs

The tribunal bishop and his gay organist

Tony Grew July 19, 2007
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The news of yesterday’s landmark employment tribunal ruling that the Bishop of Hereford discriminated against a man by refusing to employ him as a youth worker because he is gay overshadowed another eccentric decision by the church leader.

The Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, who is facing calls that he resign his post, has found time to wish his organist and his gay partner congratulations on their civil partnership.

The Bishop, who asked a gay job applicant a series of intrusive personal questions during an interview, is also an opponent of church blessings of same-sex couples.

His spokesman told the Hereford Journal:

“Our eminent organist Peter Dyke has chosen to enter into a civil partnership. The Bishop joins others in offering them his congratulations.”

At a press conference yesterday Bishop Priddis, who is a ‘traditional family values’ advocate, defended his behaviour towards youth worker John Reaney.

“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 said.

“It also recognised that the post of Diocesan Youth Officer falls within the small number of posts outside of the clergy which are within the religious exemptions of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.

“I still think the decision I made was the right one.”

Others disagree. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement have called on him to resign.

LGCM’s Ricard Kirker told the Christian website

“Bishop Priddis himself has pointed out that Hereford diocese is not wealthy, yet by his unwarranted action the diocese will be many thousands of pounds the poorer.

“He must consider his position.

“How much has this case, an attempt to persecute and deny employment on the grounds of sexual orientation, cost the Church of England? What good could possibly have come even if the Church, improbably, had won?”

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.”

The case was supported and funded by gay equality organisation Stonewall.

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.”

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