08:52, March 22 182 0 theguardian.com

2018-03-22 08:52:05
Gay hospital chaplain loses discrimination appeal against C of E

A gay clergyman who was prevented by the Church of England from taking up a job in the NHS as a hospital chaplain after he married his partner has lost his case against discrimination.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who has been a priest for more than 30 years, challenged earlier rulings against him in the court of appeal.

It rejected his claim, saying the church had applied “its sincerely-held beliefs in a way expressly permitted by … the Equality Act”.

Lord Justice Underhill said he could understand Pemberton’s feeling but “if you belong to an institution with known, and lawful rules, it implies no violation of dignity, and it is not cause for reasonable offence, that those rules should be applied to you - however wrong you may believe them to be”.

Pemberton had his “permission to officiate”, a licence needed by all clergy to work as priests and chaplains, revoked after he married his partner in 2014.

He was also denied permission to officiate in another diocese by its then acting bishop, Richard Inwood, leaving him unable to take up a job offer at the King’s Mill hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

At an employment tribunal and an employment appeals tribunal, Pemberton claimed Inwood, who was then acting bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, had discriminated against him.

During a two-day appeal hearing in January, Pemberton’s lawyers argued that the earlier rulings should be overturned.

The C of E allows priests to be in gay relationships and civil partnerships as long as the relationship is celibate, but they are forbidden from marrying their partners.

In a statement following the appeal court’s ruling, Pemberton said he had reached an agreement with the church not to pursue his claim further and it would not apply for costs to be awarded against him.

He added: “The C of E has established through this process that it can continue to discriminate legally against some LGBT people in relation to their employment, even where that employment is not within the boundaries of the church’s jurisdiction.

“This will seem to most people in the UK today an extraordinary result, and not one that will help commend the claims of Christ to the nation.

“An official position that regards the loves and commitments of LGBT people, including clergy, as sinful by definition is years overdue for thorough-going revision. The need for a revolution in attitudes and practices in the church towards this minority is still acute – we continue to wait for real change.”

He said he hoped to be allowed to return to active ministry in the future, but his permission to officiate was “in the hands of, and at the will of individual bishops”.

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