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EDITIONS
Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 12:30 GMT
Vicar's appeal backed by MEPs
The Reverend Ray Owen
Ray Owen claims he was unfairly sacked
The European Parliament has backed the case of a vicar who was unable to challenge his dismissal from his job.

The Reverend Ray Owen lost his job as team rector in the parish of Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1999.

He says he was unfairly sacked but as a clergyman was unable to challenge the decision at an industrial tribunal.

On Thursday, Euro-MPs called for changes in UK law to give the clergy the same employment rights as other workers.


We don't expect miracles - but we hope the vote will prompt changes in the employment treatment of the clergy

Glyn Ford, Labour MEP

Mr Owen said: "I am greatly encouraged.

"I hope this will give a strong push to the UK government to recognise the position of the clergy."

Currently, the clergy's status is governed by a 1912 law which gives them the distinction of being "employed by God".

Mr Owen said: ""We are now subject to many of the normal employment requirements, with contracts, and review procedures and so on and we need the protection of the rest of the employment laws."

The European Parliament vote - which has no legal force - was based on an inquiry into Mr Owen's case by the European Parliament's Petitions Committee.

The resolution said there had been "clear breaches of natural justice and basic human rights" in the procedures used to remove him from office.

High Court

The resolution stated: "The clergy should enjoy the same human rights as other citizens of the European Union.

"Their relationship with their employers in the UK is governed by common law and ecclesiastical law, which fail to provide essential rights to the clergy, notably the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in cases of dispute."

Labour Euro-MP Glyn Ford, who has been behind Mr Owen's case, said: "We don't expect miracles - but we hope the vote will prompt changes in the employment treatment of the clergy."

Mr Owen has taken his appeal to the High Court, where it failed.

His petition to the House of Lords was refused in March 2001.


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06 Nov 02 | England
24 Jan 02 | England
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