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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Bishop faces gay claim tribunal
The Rt Revd Anthony Priddis
The Rt Revd Anthony Priddis arriving at the hearing
A Church of England bishop is giving evidence before an employment tribunal in Cardiff, accused of refusing to employ a man because of his sexuality.

John Reaney, 41, from Llandudno, Conwy, claims he was refused a job as a youth worker because he is gay.

The Bishop of Hereford, who denies unlawful discrimination, has told the hearing the church's policy is that all homosexual staff must remain celibate.

It applied equally to clergy and to leaders like youth workers, he said.

The bishop, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, said what was at issue was employees' lifestyle and practice

John Reaney (right)
John Reaney said he felt 'humiliated' by questioning

Mr Reaney is taking action claiming the bishop asked him "humiliating" personal questions after an initial interview.

Speaking before the tribunal, Mr Reaney said he was interviewed for the job by a panel of eight, and told he was the unanimous choice for the position, subject to approval from the bishop.

He claims the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis then quizzed him over his sexual orientation and was left in no doubt he would not be offered the job.

A statement from the Diocese of Hereford on Tuesday denied any unlawful discrimination.

'Sexual standards'

It read: "The Bishop of Hereford denies any unlawful discrimination and has acted in accordance with Church teaching in applying a standard of sexual practice that applied equally to heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people and not on the orientation of any particular group.

"We expect the same sexual standards of behaviour from support ministers, or lay ministers, as we do of clergy."

Under the employment equality regulations, passed in 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation.

The law contained an exemption for organised religion and this case is expected to act as a test over whether support staff in the Church of England are included in this.

Matthew Batten from gay rights body Stonewall Cymru, which is funding Mr Reaney's case said: "The employment equality regulations in 2003 protect lesbian and gay people from harassment and discrimination in the work place and built into that is exemptions for a small handful of people who work in doctrinal work like vicars and preachers.

"The Church of England is trying to widen the exemption to include lay people and support staff which we don't think is part of the exemption so this is a very important test because it is the first time it has been tested in an open tribunal court.

"We have to remember the church is also an employer and these regulations cover all employment.

"There is a small exemption for churches but as far as we're concerned it doesn't include lay people or support staff."

At the Cardiff tribunal, the diocese is expected to claim that Mr Reaney was never offered the job.




SEE ALSO
Gay man takes bishop to tribunal
01 Apr 07 |  Hereford/Worcs

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