Gay Christian wins £47k pay-out
Feb 8 2008 Wales
A gay Christian who won a discrimination claim against the Church of England was awarded more than £47,000 in compensation today, the organisation backing him said.
John Reaney, a 42-year-old from North Wales, took the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance to an employment tribunal after his appointment to the role of youth worker was blocked on the grounds of his sexuality by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis.
Stonewall, the gay equality organisation which funded the claim, said the Diocese of Hereford was today ordered to pay Mr Reaney £47,345.
A spokesman for Stonewall said this included £33,000 for loss of future earnings and £7,000 damages specifically awarded for "psychiatric injury".
Mr Reaney said: "I’m delighted that this case is finally over. Lesbian and gay Christians working within the Church of England are entitled to be treated with humanity. I’m very grateful to Stonewall for supporting this case throughout."
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: "We’re delighted that the tribunal has sent such a robust signal, both to the bishop and other employers.
"The substantial level of compensation sends out a very clear message. Not even a bishop is above this law."
According to Stonewall the Bishop's costs are estimated to be a further #50,000.
Stonewall added that the tribunal had also said it expects the Bishop to undergo equal opportunities training.
The tribunal, sitting in Cardiff, ruled in July that: "The respondents discriminated against the claimant on the grounds of sexual orientation."
Mr Reaney, of Abergele Road, Colwyn Bay, claimed unlawful discrimination under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.
He told the tribunal in April that he was questioned by Bishop Priddis on his previous gay relationship during a two-hour meeting on July 19 last year after emerging as the outstanding candidate for the job during the interview process.
He said the encounter was embarrassing and humiliating and described how he had to pull over during his drive home from the Bishop’s residence to break down in tears.
Three days after the meeting, the Bishop telephoned Mr Reaney to say his application had not been successful.
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 role, which he said was a key appointment within the diocese.
The Bishop 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."
During four days of evidence, Mr Reaney’s legal team argued that a heterosexual person would not have been subject to the same level of "intrusive questioning" as he was.
Following last summer’s ruling, the Bishop told a press conference that he was disappointed.
He said at the time: "The tribunal accepted that I did not ’interrogate’ Mr Reaney and that I had acted in accordance with the teachings of the Church of England.
"It also recognised that the post of diocesan youth officer falls within the small number of posts outside of the clergy which are within the religious exemptions of the Sexual Discrimination Act."
He said: "I still think that the decision I made was the right one.
"I regret lots of aspects of what happened, naturally. I regret the polarisation of view that tends to take place when these things happen.
"I took the decision after a great deal of thought and prayer and anguish."
Anni Holden, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Hereford, said the legal costs of the case to the diocese were being met by an anonymous donation.
She said: "We are glad we can draw a line under this unhappy situation. It has been a difficult time for all of us involved in the tribunal.
"It has been a long drawn-out process and we are pleased that it is finally complete.
"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."