£47,345 for Reaney
Last July, when an employment tribunal found that the Bishop of Hereford had discriminated against John Reaney in July 2006 by not offering him the Diocesan Youth Officer post for which a selection panel of eight had unanimously recommended him, the Daily Telegraph reported "Mr Reaney is expected to be awarded substantial damages". Ideally, these would have been agreed by private negotiation between the parties, but efforts to achieve this over a four month period were unsuccessful. And the unexpected outcome of a two-day hearing in early December was the announcement of a further delay of at least a month in reaching a final decision. The tribunal finally issued its judgment last week and awarded a total of £47,345. This includes £7000 for ‘psychiatric injury’ as well as £30,000 for loss of future earnings. The diocese continues to deny the issue had been sexual orientation.
In his written evidence in December, the bishop said: " my opinion was, and still is, that at the time of the interview the Claimant did not have sufficient stability of life to give the assurances that the Tribunal have found I was entitled to require of him."
At the December hearing the bishop took strong exception to the public criticism he had received, referring specifically to the statement made in July by LGCM that he should resign, and to Stonewall's comment that the verdict was "a triumph for 21st century decency over 19th century prejudice". The latter he said was "offensive to me to read".
But he was particularly upset by being named Bigot of the Year , surprisingly defeating Archbishop Nicholls of Birmingham, in Stonewall's annual competition. Bishop Priddis said: These sorts of comments are destructive to everyone involved, particularly the Church."
At least the parties did agree by the end of the hearing that it was no longer sensible to consider appointing Mr Reaney to the Hereford post, although the Diocese suggested that he should have applied for at least two other similar diocesan posts which had recently been advertised. Understandably, Mr Reaney responded by saying that after his experience at Hereford he did not have the confidence at present to submit himself to the ordeal of a further rejection by the Church, even though he had continued in his celibate state since 2006.
Another issue raised at the hearing was whether the diocese intended to make its requirement for a "Christian lifestyle" explicit in future recruitment advertising. The bishop said he was reluctant to do that. Later the diocese issued a statement explaining the position:
"Given the judgement of the tribunal the only "safe" option to avoid future discrimination claims is for the Diocese to express a Genuine Occupational Requirement and claim exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulation 2003.
This we do not wish to do as we wish to encourage people of any sexual orientation to play a full part in the life of the Church and to apply for all Diocesan posts.
However, we also require those in leadership positions within the Diocese, and the DYO is such a position, to uphold, support and promote the doctrine of the Church of England. We are therefore seeking advice on how we can maintain the teachings of the Church without transgressing the law."