Saturday, July 28, 2007

Anglican bishop condemned for refusing to employ dissident homosexual as youth worker

Latest update: important clarificaction of the law.

From CCfoN (in part): As was expected, the Tribunal reinforced the High Court’s position that there is no difference between sexual “orientation” and sexual “behaviour” in the eyes of the law. It did not matter that the Bishop was not discriminating because Mr Reaney was attracted to men, but because of Mr Reaney’s lifestyle as a sexually active homosexual. The Tribunal decided that on the face of it, Mr Reaney had been unlawfully discriminated against because he was a homosexual.

However, the Tribunal decided that although Mr Reaney was not applying for a job as a clergyman, the post of Diocesan Youth Officer did fall within the “very narrow” exception for which the Church of England could discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. This was a valuable decision for all churches – Stonewall had argued aggressively that churches should not be able to refuse to employ practising homosexuals in any jobs other than the clergy.

Churches that want to protect the integrity of their ministry should therefore be able to do so, providing the job they are recruiting for involves the employee being “closely associated with the promotion of the Church.” In such a case, it is likely they can ensure that the employee is not a practising homosexual.

However, specifically in relation to the Church of England, the Tribunal drew one key distinction between clergy and non-clergy posts, by saying that “we do not think it would be in accordance with the Issues [in Human Sexuality] statement to require [unmarried] lay persons to commit to celibacy.” Sadly, the equivocal position of the Church of England means that the courts have said that the most that Anglican churches can require of lay employees is that they are not in a practising homosexual relationship during the employment. Lay employees cannot be expected to be repentant about past homosexual behaviour, or to acknowledge that such behaviour was wrong. Of course, this position would change if the House of Bishops and General Synod were to revise the Issues on Human Sexuality statement and strengthen its requirements. Thankfully this part of the judgment does not apply to denominations outside of the Church of England.

(The full press release will appear soon here.)

Update 19/07/07: big hat-tip to Hermeneutic of Continuity for the following, not included in the CCfoN press-release below (our emphasis):

The crucial legal point in this case was highlighted by the solicitor, Alison Downie of Bindman & Partners:
"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."
So it is now against the law for a Christian organisation to require that its employees undertake to abide by Christian teaching.

Briefing 18/07/07. It seems that John Reaney had had sexual relationships outside marriage, and although he was single at the time of the job interview, did not satisfy Bishop Priddis of his moral character. Priddis' subsequent decision not to employ him as a 'youth worker' has been declared an act of illegal discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, under the SORs. This is exactly what we thought would happen, and is an extremely worrying result.

From Christian Concern for our Nation (and the BBC): “A gay man has won his case for unlawful discrimination after he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop.

The employment tribunal said John Reaney, 42, was discriminated against "on grounds of sexual orientation" by the Hereford diocesan board of finance. Mr Reaney, from Colwyn Bay, Conwy, said he was "delighted" at the decision.

The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, said he was "naturally disappointed" and may appeal.

During the tribunal in Cardiff in April, Mr Reaney said he was questioned by Bishop Priddis on his previous gay relationship during a two-hour meeting on 19 July 2006. It came after he was told he had emerged as the outstanding candidate for the job during an eight-man interview, the hearing heard. Mr Reaney, whose case was supported by Stonewall, also told the tribunal he was left "very embarrassed and extremely upset" following the meeting and said he felt like "a total waste of space".

During his evidence, Bishop Priddis said he had made clear to Mr Reaney that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would be turned down for the post.

But the tribunal found that the Bishop should only have considered the present lifestyle of Mr Reaney, who is single, and he should have not questioned his
future relationships.

Delivering the judgement, the tribunal said the case would now be listed for a remedy hearing. "The respondents discriminated against the claimant on the grounds of sexual
orientation," said the judgement. Mr Reaney, who had already worked in two other Anglican dioceses, where he had been praised for his achievements, said he was delighted.

He said the case "demonstrated to many lesbian and gay Christians working for
God within the Church of England that they are entitled to fair and respectful
treatment". But speaking to a news conference in Hereford on Wednesday, the Bishop said: "I still think the decision I made was the right one." "I regret the polarisation of view which takes place when these things happen," he said, adding he had made the decision after a "great deal of prayer and contemplation".

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said the verdict was "a triumph for 21st Century decency over 19th Century prejudice". "We're very happy for John," he said. "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."

Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, it is
illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation,
but the law does contain an exemption for organised religion.”

LCF comment

At first sight this judgment appears to be a serious affront to the freedom for churches to guarantee that their children and teenagers are being taught by people who are living according to the Bible’s clear teaching about sexual morality. The law is shifting rapidly so that where there is a ‘competition of rights’ it is the homosexual’s right that trumps the Christian’s right. This is a situation that needs to be reversed. At the very least, our law should recognise conscience exemptions for Christians so that they can live according to their faith. A fuller analysis of the situation will be made once we have received a copy of the judgment.


onthesideoftheangels said...

I'm sorry but I fail to see how anglicanism has the audacity to suggest there is anything wrong with the mutual masturbatory acts of same sex partners; when since the Lambeth conference where they permitted artificial contraception, it has permitted mutual masturbation amongst those heterosexuals who are open to the sharing graces of God's gift of Life.

So having gay sex where it is intrinsically impossible to conceive is forbidden; but deliberately preventing conception is acceptable ???

catholics have perfectly valid rational reasons for condemning homosexual acts - but because anglicanism has eradicated its fundamental moral theology regarding human lovemaking they are left having to resort to 'questions of personal taste' or specious biblical passages to equivocate their antipathy to homosexual sexual acts. It' their own problem ; and leaves very little for us to worry about save the prolonged scandal against Christ by these foolish heretics - we have a coherent morality; something they most certainly haven't !!

Webmaster said...

You have a point, OTSOTA, but Catholics' more coherent moral teaching isn't going to be enough to fend off SORs-based lawsuits like this one. Check out the quotation from the solicitors just added to the post.

(And can you find a more delicate way of talking about sexual morality? And of referring to the Anglicans? Technically, they're not heretics because (most of the them) haven't fallen away from the Faith, they never had it.)

Daniel Hill said...

Dear onthesideoftheangels,

You say:
I'm sorry but I fail to see how anglicanism has the audacity to suggest there is anything wrong with the mutual masturbatory acts of same sex partners; when since the Lambeth conference where they permitted artificial contraception, it has permitted mutual masturbation amongst those heterosexuals who are open to the sharing graces of God's gift of Life.

The answer is simple: the Bible condemns homosexual activity (1 Corinthians 6:8-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-11), but it doesn't condemn contraception. And the Church of England's official position is enshrined in Article VI of the XXXIX Articles:
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

Webmaster said...

Thank you, Mr Hill.

I don't think a Catholic need have any problem with Article XXXIX. We need only point out that, without an authoritative interpretation of Scripture, itself guided by the Holy Spirit, there are going to be a lot of disagreements, and if disagreements, errors. Generations of Anglican theologians thought that the condemnation of contraception is to be 'read in Scripture', using just the kinds of arguments Catholics might use; the Anglican position only changed in 1936.

OTSOTA's point is that the moral principle implicit in the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality also rules out contraception. That's the standard Catholic view, and it seems pretty plausible.

onthesideoftheangels said...

Catholic moral teaching is unequivocal - human lovemaking consists of two aspects - the unitive and procreative[not merely generative but a respect to and opennes to the potential of Life] - where either aspect is denied there is moral disorder and when this is willed there is sin.

These unitive and procreative aspects are intrinsically inseparable from the moral teachings throughout the bible ; and for this reason anything which contravenes this principled rational law of God is axiomatically condemned by the bible. Just because protestants have equivocated and refused to acknowledge this does not make it any less true.

catholicism condemns homosexual acts because it contravenes the principles inherant within natural law and divine revelation [something upheld in an exemplary fashion within the bible]

protestantism fallaciously inversely induces principles from biblical passages - and thus they end with such irrational confusion.
The bible condemns sodomites and catamites for very specific reasons and it's not for their dress sense or taste in soft furnishings - but for what they do - and it's exactly the same as heterosexual couples who wilfully act contraceptively.

You cannot condemn homosexual acts without automatically condemning the use of artificial contraception amongst heterosexuals [an act which is fundamentally more grave as openness to life is being wilfully denied - homosexual acts have no openness to it].

As for the thirty nine articles ?
I have neither the time, energy nor inclination to discuss it save that protestants should spend a little more time loving the WORD rather than the words.

John Kearney said...

I am sorry to say it but I think this particular homsexual had a very good case. I feel sorry for Bishop Priddis for he was following his conscience bgut the fact is that there is no authority in the Anglican Church to back him. If he was employed in two other diocese and the bishops of these saw nothing wrong it is very had indeed for the bishop to make the case that he in denying the job to this applicant was following the standards laid down by his Church. Since also homosexuality is accepted by the Church of England the solicitor was correct in saying that the bishop would have been wrong to impose celibacy. I do not think this is a good test case for SOR`s against conscience. This is about the Church of England sorting itself out. But one will caome along shortly.

Webmaster said...

I don't agree. The question here is the precise question which is going to face many Catholic church or charity employers: can you exercise your judgement in order to protect children entrusted to your care? The court says 'no'.

Many, many active homosexuals are employed by Catholic institutions:
see here. Does that mean that they have a ticket to go on working for the Church for life? This is a recipe for standards to be set by the most liberal institutions you can find.

Parliament and this court have made it abundantly clear that clarity of Church teaching on the subject of sexuality does not give immunity from anti-discrimination laws. From their point of view, how could it? From their point of view, we are a religion which requires us to break Natural Law - like people who engage in human sacrifice or forced marriages. We may be sincere in our beliefs, but for the sake of justice we must be broken of this habit.

Daniel Hill said...

Dear onthesideoftheangels,

I have quoted two Bible passages that Anglicans take to condemn homosexual activity. Can you quote some Bible passages that condemn artificial contraception, please?

Your post so far consists of mere assertion with no Biblical proofs.

Daniel Hill said...

Dear John Kearney,

I'm afraid that your post contains some errors: it's not true that 'the bishops of these [Reaney's former dioceses] saw nothing wrong' with Reaney's conduct. On the contrary, the Bishop of Chester told him to choose between his job and his then partner, and Reaney resigned his job and left church work.

It's also not true that 'homosexuality is accepted by the Church of England'. The Church of England states that homosexual practice is inconsistent with the presbyterate (aka 'priesthood'). The point here is that Reaney had promised not to undertake sexual practice while in the job and, essentially, the Bishop felt that he couldn't trust this promise.

Note that the court confirmed that it is OK to impose celibacy if the job falls within the exceptions given in the Regulations, as this one did, provided that correct procedure is followed. The fact is that the court judged that the bishop did not follow correct procedure, since he did not accept Reaney's promise at face value.

Daniel Hill said...

Dear webmaster:

I think there are two important legal precedents set by the court's decision.

The first is that the imposition of the condition of being celibate or married is by definition indirect discrimination, the court says.

The second is that such posts as diocesan youth officer are exempt from the regulations here. This would go for Roman Catholics as much as for Anglicans.

In order to make use of the second point every religious organization covered by the exemptions needs to have a coherent policy and guidelines for procedure. The Bishop's case fell because he was adjudged not to have followed C-of-E guidelines correctly, in particular by not taking Reaney's assurance at face value. This would probably apply to every religious organization: the court says that one has to take on trust people's statements about their own sexual behaviour (unless, perhaps, one has strong reasons to the contrary).

PS Aren't you en route to an infinite regress if you insist that there needs to be an authoritative interpretation of Scripture?

Webmaster said...

Mr Hill: 'infinite regress' of interpretation. (Been reading Wittgenstein, eh?) It is true that Magisterial documents sometimes need interpretation, but that interpretation can, if necessary, be made by the Magisterium itself, and in real life the regress doesn't need to go very far before all reasonable people at least understand what is being claimed, if not agree with it. We can see from our own experience that this is not the case with the interpretation of Scripture.

Daniel Hill said...

Dear Webmaster,

I think you're too optimistic about the power of the Magisterium's self-interpretation to settle arguments. For example, the CDF declared recently that Ordinatio sacerdotalis was infallible. But some, e.g. Jesuit Peter Burns, query whether its declaration was itself infallible:

The fact is that in a fallen world there will always be difference of interpretation, and so I don't consider its presence a convincing argument against the Protestant position.

Webmaster said...

The infallibility of Ord Sac. was not affirmed in the most un-arguable way, for reasons (I think) of curial politics. There is no dispute about the anathemas of Trent or Vatican I or the ex Cathedra pronouncements of 1950 and so on. Some people dissent from them, of course, but at least we can all see they are dissenting.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen