Bishop Denies Discrimination Against Gay Youth Worker

A Church of England Bishop has denied unlawfully discriminating against a homosexual man who was turned down for the post of youth worker within his diocese.

The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, told an employment tribunal in Cardiff that he was complying with the teachings of the Church when he decided not to give 41-year-old John Reaney the job.

The Bishop said the sexuality of Mr Reaney was not the issue but his lifestyle or behaviour was; specifically having sex outside of marriage. Mr Reaney, a committed Christian from Llandudno, north Wales, claims being openly gay cost him the job, and he has lodged a claim for unlawful discrimination against the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance.

Bishop Priddis said at a staff meeting on July 19 last year, following the interview process for the youth worker position, he learnt that Mr Reaney had indicated on his application form that he was gay. He said he subsequently decided to call Mr Reaney in for a discussion during which it emerged that he had not long come out of a five-year homosexual relationship.

The Bishop said he concluded that Mr Reaney was not emotionally in a position to be making promises about his behaviour for the future. “It would not have been right for me to take an undertaking of his head that his heart could not keep,” said Bishop Priddis. He added: “Such sexuality in itself was not an issue but Mr Reaney’s lifestyle had the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese.”

He said he made it quite clear to Mr Reaney that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would also be turned down for the job, which he said was a key appointment within the diocese.

The Bishop said this view on sex outside of marriage was reinforced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, and the Lambeth Conference, which is a meeting of the archbishops and bishops of the Anglican Communion every ten years.

The tribunal heard the job was not offered to anyone else after Bishop Priddis vetoed the appointment. After highlighting the limited finances of his diocese, Bishop Priddis said: “Even had Mr Reaney been appointed last summer, there would have been the possibility of him being made redundant and that could have happened sooner rather than later.”

Under cross-examination from Mr Reaney’s barrister, Sandhya Drew, Bishop Priddis denied he had breached the equal opportunity policy of his own diocese. He said: “The Church’s teachings draws distinction between sexual orientation and practice and lifestyle. We didn’t discriminate against Mr Reaney on the grounds of sexuality. Had we done so we wouldn’t have called him for an interview.”