|The Very Rev Jeffrey John, |
Dean of St Albans
I think the Sunday Times and the Mail both had this story but, except behind the paywall, the Mail got online first:
'I'll sue Church of England if it bars me from being bishop,' says gay dean
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, has instructed an eminent employment lawyer to complain to Church officials after being rejected for the role of Bishop of Southwark.
It's a very interesting move and I'm happy to bet that the CofE will settle out of court rather than face a full hearing.
The court will, I suspect, have regard to two issues. The first is that of discrimination. Second, the extent to which the Church has followed its own rules.
Inevitably this touches on the clash between the desire of (some in) the Church to place its structural prejudices in front of human rights.
However the view that there is no bar to the preferment of gay people who are celibate was recently set out in a formal legal opinion by William Fittal (Guardian article, the opinion - pdf). It will also do John's case no harm that a memo by Colin Slee was later prepared (and leaked) setting out the appalling manner in which the appointment committee was conducted.
Slee said of the meeting: "We had two very horrible days in which I would say both archbishops behaved very badly. The meeting was not a fair consideration at all; they were intent on wrecking both Jeffrey John and Nick Holtam equally, despite the fact that their CVs were startlingly in an entirely different and better league than the other two candidates …
I would guess that the CofE will be liable for considerable damages.
Assuming John wins his case, whether in the tribunal or outside it, the question then will be: would the Church prefer to keep barring gay people from posts and keep paying compensation, or will it change its recruitment process to ensure that (at least celibate) gay people are not discriminated against?
We shall see.