By Hilary White
LONDON, February 11, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Anglican bishop of Hereford has been ordered by a court to undergo "equal opportunities training" and pay a fine of £47,345.00, the equivalent of $92,106.00 Cn., for refusing to hire an active homosexual for a position of trust with young people. The ruling also stated that Hereford diocese staff "involved in recruitment should receive equal opportunities training".
"The respondents discriminated against the claimant on the grounds of sexual orientation," said the ruling from the Cardiff Employment Tribunal.
The Right Reverend Anthony Priddis refused to hire a homosexual man, John Reaney, as a youth worker on the grounds that the Christian religion holds sexual continence within natural marriage as the norm. He told media that he stands by his original decision and may appeal the ruling.
When Mr. Reaney, an active homosexual who sees no conflict with his lifestyle and his Christian beliefs, was refused for a position with the diocese as a youth officer, he launched a complaint with the Employment Tribunal. This complaint was funded by the homosexual political organization Stonewall and was considered by them and others as a test case in the application of the so-called "religious exemption" of recently passed Equality legislation that prohibits "discrimination" on the grounds of "sexual orientation".
The Tribunal dismissed the arguments of Bishop Priddis who said the refusal was not about "discrimination" but about upholding Christian sexual morality. He said he had made it clear to Mr. Reaney and the Tribunal that a person in a sexual relationship outside marriage, whatever their "sexual orientation", would be turned down for a post in the diocese.
"The Church’s teaching draws distinction between sexual orientation and practice and lifestyle," Bishop Priddis said. "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."
But Philip Whealy, spokesman for the Christian Congress for Traditional Values (CCTV) told LifeSiteNews.com that the decision is about more than just one man and one bishop. It "highlights the general trend in the UK towards the destruction of freedom of conscience and speech."
Whealy identified the decision of the Employment Tribunal as a victory for the homosexual movement that wants to suppress and ultimately criminalize the public expression of Christian sexual morality.
The Tribunal heard that after Mr. Reaney was refused the position, the diocese did not hire any other applicant and the position was dissolved because of financial constraints.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the compensation award to Mr. Reaney includes £7,000 damages for "psychiatric injury" and £6,000 for "injury to feelings".
Employment Tribunals are a form of lower courts in Great Britain which have jurisdiction to hear disputes between employers and employees. Unlike the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals, however, both parties must pay their own costs and a lawyer is appointed as "Chairman" of the proceedings. Most commonly, disputes going before Employment Tribunals are concerned with unfair dismissal and discrimination.
Anni Holden, spokesman for the Diocese of Hereford, said, "We are now aware that when making such an appointment we must make it clear if it is a genuine occupational requirement that the post-holder should believe in and uphold the Christian belief and ideal of marriage, and that sexual relationships are confined to marriage."
"This is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation."
Holden said that the diocese of Hereford would be declining the offer made by Stonewall to provide the "equal opportunities training" ordered by the Tribunal.
Philip Whealy said the case is only part of a bigger picture of erosion of civil liberties in Britian, in the name of "equality". Christians, he said, "must stop hiding away praying and prayerfully speak out the clear truths of Scripture without fear. The freedoms we clearly take for granted were, in many cases, bought with blood and liberty and must not be relinquished at any cost."
"Christians extend God’s love to a sinful and hurting world, but that does not mean that they will, or should, lie down and accept a secular redefinition of Biblical morality."
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
UK’s First Gays vs. Church Test Case Against Anglican Bishop