Some Consideration on the Law and Bangor

As regards the possibility of Jeffrey John becoming Bishop of Bangor, it might be worth reviewing the conversations on this blog last summer after the Priddis / Reaney case.

As you remember, Reaney took Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford, to court alleging direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds that the Bishop refused to accept his assurances that he would remain celibate. The employment tribunal found that indeed he had been directly and indirectly discriminated on the following basis:

  • The Bishop refused to accept his assurances that he would remain celibate
  • The Bishop asked him questions that he wouldn’t have done if Reaney wasn’t homosexual.

The meat of the issue is discussed here, and take careful note of Simon Sarmiento’s comment here which, on reflection, explains the case very well and holes my argument pretty effectively (though I did put up a struggle for a number of comments afterwards).

So, where does that lead us as regards Dr John and Bangor? Well, let me precede the following paragraphs with a very clear and unequivocal statement. My understanding of Jeffrey John is that he is a highly gracious man who has no intention of making any political points out of this whole affair, and that because of this fact the scenario below is very unlikely.

Let’s say Dr John gets nominated by one of the Electoral College and goes through to the ballot. Before the ballot it is made known to the electors that the Church Hierarchy would have a serious problem with Dr John being elected, and as a consequence of this, Dr John is very quickly out of the running. Dr John then goes to an Employment Tribunal arguing that the pressure applied on electors contravened the 2003 Employment Equality (SO) Regulations. Would he have a case?

Firstly, the difference between this case and the Reaney case is that there one is a job interview and the other an election. Can the 2003 Regulations cover an election? Secondly, there would need to be some clarification over exactly what the employment status of a bishop was. Office? Title? Job?

Assuming that those two hurdles are passed and the 2003 Regulations are pertinent, then on what grounds was the discrimination? A number of factors to consider:

  • It is very clear that Dr John fulfils all the pastoral praxis considerations in relation to Issues (1990). He is celibate, has been for a number of years,and can be assumed to intend to remain so until the church’s guidance changes.
  • It can’t be argued that any objection is on the basis of his teaching as other Bishops teach the same thing he does on human sexuality (and the atonement)
  • The best objection is that Dr John is an unrepentant sinner (he has been sexually active and has neither repented of it nor said that it was incorrect). But this reason to deny him office (whilst theologically and ecclesiologically I believe valid) surely falls foul of the 2003 Regulations. Is this objection being applied to him where it has not been applied to others in the past? Is it being applied to him because of the particular forms of sex he has engaged in in the past?

As I said above, this scenario is unlikely to happen, but considering it is, I believe, a worthwhile exercise, if only to demonstrate to fellow conservatives the potential legal minefield such a possible appointment might present.

What do you peeps think on these issues?

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