Gay Man Wins Discrimination Case Against the Church of England

A 42-year-old man who “had been told that he was the outstanding candidate” for a youth worker job he was applying for with the Church of England but was turned down afteer a grueling interview session in which a Bishop asked him probing questions about his sexual behavior, has won a landmark case before an employment tribunal in Britain.

BishopThe Telegraph reports: “Mr [John] Reaney…said that the meeting had left him feeling embarrassed, upset and ‘a total waste of space’. He said he had pulled over while driving home and broke down in tears. Three days after the meeting, the bishop telephoned Mr Reaney to say his application had not been successful. During his evidence, Bishop Priddis said he had made it clear to Mr Reaney that a person in a sexual relationship outside marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would be turned down for the post. The Bishop said that Mr Reaney’s behavior was contrary to official Church teaching and had ‘the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese’. The tribunal found that Bishop Priddis should have considered only the present lifestyle of Mr Reaney, who is single, and he should not have speculated about potential future relationships.”

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill responded to the decision: “This outcome is a triumph for 21st century decency over 19th century prejudice.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.”

“Substantial compensation” to Mr. Reaney is expected to be forthcoming.


  1. Leland says

    I’m a devout athiest, believe only the aggressively screened “charity” activities of any church [feeding the poor, etc.] should be tax exempt NOT their religion-promoting activities and properties, and would celebrate if most church buildings burned to the ground. BUT this is a Pyrrhic victory that should never have been pursued in the first place.

    Just as I don’t want religions to be able to tell me what to do [including barring them from lobbying any public regulatory body if they want to keep their tax exempt status], I have no right to tell them what to do in such cases [breaking criminal law, e.g., slaughtering vestal virgins is different]. The antigay industry’s coffers grow richer and richer as they yell “religious discrimination” louder and louder. Falwell, rot his soul, was always making up some story about churches being forced to hire homosexuals preying on children in Sunday School blah blah.

    Cases like this simply give them more ammunition.

  2. David says

    The Church of England employes many lay workers including teachers, cleaners, drivers, journalists, youth workers etc. It has charitable status for taxation, sponsored by state money to supply its education and social care services. It is also part of the legislature and government having automatic seats in the House of Lords. It makes the legistlation. It’s lay employees should be protected like anyone else from discrimination on the basis of their sexuality or sexual orientation. Why any religious organisation should be able to make demands on the private lives of their lay staff is beyond me. Why should they alone have special status? The Church of England being part of the state has no right to go against law. If it wishes to do so then it should at least disestablish itself. The state has legislated that discrimination in terms of sexual orientation is unacceptable except for narrow exemptions for religious organisations and clerical staff. This was an apallingly example of bad treatment. The lack of contrition by a bishop who broke employment law and has the gall to claim he did nothing wrong is clear and I think reflects badly on the Church in the eyes of most people living in England.

  3. beergoggles says

    Leland, in case you didn’t know, there is no separation of CoE and state in the UK. I prefer the US model of separation, but honestly, if churches don’t want to be told what to do by the state, they need to stop trying to tie themselves to the state like what our American fundies keep trying to do.

  4. Reasonbased says

    Leland, I disagree. In England, the church is supported by tax payers and the head of the state is also the head of the church. Clearly, they have no right to violate the law of the land. Even in the U.S., where churches are getting federal money from the unconstitutional faith based initiatives, they should not be allowed to discriminate, as long as even $1 from tax payers’ money goes to them. Not to mention they are tax exempt.

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