A gay priest has lost his discrimination case after being blocked from a job with the NHS as a hospital chaplain by the Church of England.
Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who has been a clergyman for 30 years, went to the court of appeal to challenge earlier rulings against him but it rejected his case, stating that the church had applied “its sincerely held beliefs in a way expressly permitted by…the Equality Act”.
Lord Justice Underhill expressed sympathy for Canon Pemberton but went on: “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 married his partner in 2014, causing the church to revoke his licence to work as a priest and chaplain. The lack of official status left him unable to take up a job offer at the King’s Mill hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. The C of E allows priests to be in gay relationships and civil partnerships as long as the relationship is celibate. They are not allowed to marry someone of the same sex.
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 the church would not apply for costs to be awarded against him.
He said: “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 thoroughgoing 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.”