Bishop faces equal opportunities training after discrimination award

By staff writers
February 9, 2008

An Anglican bishop will be expected to take equal opportunities training and faces costs estimated at £50,000 after a tribunal yesterday awarded a gay youth worker £47,000 compensation after ruling that he had been discriminated against.

John Reaney, aged 42, from north Wales, had his appointment to a church youth work job blocked by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis.

Mr Reaney told the tribunal that he had been interviewed by the church panel and told he was the best applicant. He was then questioned by the bishop in a two-hour meeting he described as "embarrassing and humiliating."

Three days later, Bishop Priddis telephoned Mr Reaney to say that his application had not been successful. During four days of evidence, Mr Reaney's legal team argued that a heterosexual person would not have been subject to the same level of "intrusive questioning".

Yesterday Anni Holden, a spokesperson for Hereford diocese, said that the church was exempt from the regulations in some circumstances, and had acted in that light.

"We are now aware that we must make it clear if it is a genuine occupational requirement that the post-holder should believe in and uphold the Christian belief and ideal of marriage," she said adding "This is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation."

Gay and lesbian Christians argue that being gay and in a relationship or civil partnership does not undermine heterosexual marriage or the values it enshrines, any more than being single - a state commended by St Paul - does.

During the debate about civil partnerships two years ago, the former Anglican Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, said that he had many gay friends, and that his marriage had never felt threatened by them. Indeed, their could be mutual affirmation and learning.

A spokesperson for Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, pointed out that the award to Mr Reaney included £33,000 for loss of future earnings and £7,000 damages for "psychiatric injury".

He also said that Bishop Priddis would be expected to take equal opportunities training as well as paying substantial costs.

"The substantial level of compensation sends out a very clear message," said Stonewall CEO Ben Summerskill. "Not even a bishop is above this law."

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