Homosexual activist groups are hailing as a "landmark" the decision against the Church of England by a Welsh employment tribunal in favour of a homosexual man claiming discrimination based on his sexual orientation.
The gay lobby group Stonewall gave financial and legal backing to a complaint by 42 year-old John Reaney, an active homosexual who had applied for the position of youth director for the diocese of Hereford.
Despite the fact that the Sexual Orientation Regulations contain an "exemption" for religious groups, the tribunal found that Mr. Reaney had been discriminated against. Reaney now stands to receive substantial financial compensation from the diocese.
Right Rev. Anthony Priddis, the Anglican Bishop of Hereford had declined to hire Reaney, saying the man had admitted to engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage during a five year long relationship, a clear violation of the Christian doctrines of chastity to which the Anglican Communion officially adheres.
Religious bodies, including the Church of England, warned last year that the right to religious expression would be severely restricted when the Sexual Orientation Regulations passed in April.
Bishop Priddis said during his testimony that he had made it clear that the issue was not Reaney's sexual "orientation" but simply that sexual activity of any sort outside marriage would be grounds for not being hired.
The Bishop said, "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."
The employment tribunal's judgment is the first instance under the new regulations where religious bodies must comply with secularist sexual doctrine over and above their religious beliefs.
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