Hereford Judgement Online

The full tribunal judgement is available online here. It’s a 1.2Mb download which I’m going to read now and then comment on if necessary.

OK, my initial thoughts, numbered by sections of the Tribunal’s judgement:

13 – The sentence “In Mr Chapman’s view the fact that the Claimant was gay was not the problem but it was a problem that he had openly admitted to having been a non-celibate homosexual” demonstrates that the pastoral rubric of “Issues in Human Sexuality” and Lambeth 1998 1:10 were being considered by the short-listing panel in relation to this appointment.

18 – When the minutes comment “Cannot have one rule for laity which is different to that for clergy”, the committee in this respect seems to be rejecting “Issues” as the guiding principle (laity can be in same-sex relationships, clergy can’t) and instead are using Lambeth 1998 1:10 (which condemns ALL same-sex relationships) as their pastoral guidance.

19 – The bishop clearly makes a distinction between sexual orientation and practice. However, this paragraph also seems to indicate that the Bishop saw the post as equivalent to a senior clergy appointment.

21 – In line with 19,  it is therefore “Issues” which becomes the pastoral guidance, not Lambeth 1998 1:10. This is a move from paragraph 18.

27 – The claimant, on hearing that the interview panel had unanimously recommended him, requested a diocesan house. Such a request seems to indicate that the claimant recognised that the post was a clergy equivalent and was therefore entitled to similar benefits.

30 – +Hereford makes notes after ringing up references about his concern that the claimant’s agreement to celibacy was perhaps not taken under consideration (“the cost of singleness”) given that he had just (a few months previously) come out of a long relationship.

31 – “The bishop’s concern was not what had happened in the past but it was future lifestyle and practice … In his mind, if the Claimant had lived for, say, three years in celibacy then he would be happy to appoint him and would not have asked him any questions about such matters”

32 – In a meeting with Chapman (running the interviews), +Hereford says that he will “go through Issues” with the claimant. This conversation firmly establishes for the tribunal that Issues is the deciding pastoral practice in this case.

36 – This paragraph covers the crucial elements of the conversation between +Hereford and Reaney.

39 – An interesting paragraph – here the Bishop describes have disquiet that Reaney, if he met somebody who he considered having a relationship with, would “talk to the Bishop”. The Bishop also felt that Reaney was emotionally raw.

40 – It seems that on the basis of these two judgements, +Hereford phoned Reaney and told him he would not be appointing.

41 – Crucially, the Bishop writes to Reaney, “Because so much is at stake for you personally and for the ministry among young people and therefore the whole work of the Diocese, I do not feel able to invite you to come as Youth Office wehere that stability has not been lived out and where the evidence of it is simply not available because the time interval from the ending of your relationship is too short”

42 – Interestingly, when the Bishop phoned Reaney a few days later, Reaney in the conversation said to the Bishop that he had “someone to cuddle with and other things … yet you deny me that”. Does this demonstrate or not Reaney’s willingness to abide by Issues?

51 – This paragraph sets out and defines what Church of England teaching on sexuality is. It cites Synod 1997, Synod 1987, Lambeth 1998 1:10, Issues in Human Sexuality, Some Issues in Human Sexuality and the Companion to Some Issues.

53 – Reference was made to some addresses by +++Canterbury to Synod which were NOT treated as teaching of the Church.

57 – Cites Issues 3:15 which makes a clear distinction between singleness and celibacy, the argument which +Hereford used in relation to his opinion of Reaney’s assurances.

71 – References a Commons Committee that highlights clause 7(3) of the 2003 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations. The Minister of State clearly argues that the exemption is not just for the appointment of Ministers of Religion (i.e. clergy) but also other religious employment appointments where the employment was specifically to advance the cause of that religion. This is confirmed in para 75 (Lord Sainsbury).

76 – Outlines that 7(3) exemption terms helps to clarify that sexual behaviour, not orientation, may be an issue.

86 to 92 – The Tribunal rules that there was NO harassment of Reaney in his being questioned about his orientation and sexual practice.

97 – 98 – The tribunal rule that +Hereford directly discriminated against Reaney as in their opinion he would not have inquired of a heterosexual applicant’s future sexual conduct in the same manner. I for one find the arguing here strange and assumptive and would think that the Diocese had strong grounds to appeal.

102 – The Tribunal rules that the Youth Officer post DOES fall within the scope of section 7(3) exemptions.

103 – The Diocese finds that +Priddis was legally entitled to request of Reaney an assurance of celibacy in line with Church of England teaching.

105 – The Tribunal find that +Priddis was incorrect to not accept Reaney’s assurances of celibacy.

106 – “The reason is that there was no good reason to consider that the Claimant did not at the present time meet the requirement”. I for one believe that, given the facts of the case, this was the correct decision.

Having discussed the above, I believe that the point I made previously is even more valid once the judgement is read. The tribunal very clearly demonstrates that if an item of doctrine or pastoral practice is clearly demonstrated to be Church of England practice then it is perfectly legal to cite it as an exemption under clause 7(3) of the 2003 regulations. Let me spell out very clearly what that means – a Synod motion OR a House of Bishops pastoral letter banning clergy from entering Civil Partnerships would be perfectly valid.

Right, I’ve got a cat here now – who can supply the pigeons?

2 Comments on “Hereford Judgement Online

  1. I agree with much of your analysis, including your final paragraph. Note, however, that paragraph 106 is only addressing the question of whether the Bishop is legally exempt from the regulations. If he didn’t discriminate against Reaney on the grounds of sexual orientation then this is irrelevant. The focus then becomes paras 97 and 98. I agree with your analysis, and should go further: it seems to me eminently possible that the Bishop would have asked the exact same question (‘can you keep your promise of not having sexual intercourse outside marriage?’) had the candidate confessed on the form to heterosexual intercourse outside marriage during his previous job (in Chester diocese).

    I’m surprised that you don’t note anything concerning para 99, which appears to suggest that the policy of the Church of England amounts to indirect discrimination, and that this was not contested by the Bishop. I don’t know whether legally this gives precedent since it amounts to an obiter remark. There is a possibility that if an appeal went through that the higher court would strike down the judgment of direct discrimination but sustain the judgment of indirect discrimination. This would then mean that the C of E could not enforce the rule of celibacy or marriage for lower-ranking jobs.

    Note also that the court’s ruling effectively means that one has to take assurances at their face value; one cannot probe them even for the pastoral reasons that the Bishop mentions in para. 39.

  2. You’d need more than just a pastoral letter or directive: you’d need evidence than people in breach of the new directive were being dismissed

    Once you’ve fired Jeffrey John, the Hereford organist the bishop is wishing all the best for his civil union. and half the chaplains of the Cambridge colleges — then you’ll be able to get away with not appointing the likes of Reaney.

    But we all know that won’t happen! The good news is that Rochester, Ebbsfleet and sevearl others have said they will join the boycott of Lambeth – and apparently John Stott has accepted a speaking slot from the Global South meeting!

    So just as in the US – now you have to choose.

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