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Employment Tribunal upholds Church's teaching on marriage

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The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that the Church of England lawfully withheld a clergyman’s licence, after he ‘married’ his same-sex partner in 2014.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton was the first member of the clergy to deliberately defy clear church teaching and engage in a same-sex ‘marriage’. He had previously fathered five children with his former wife.

Mr Pemberton claimed that he was discriminated against because of his 'marriage' and/or sexual orientation. He also claimed harassment from the Bishops involved. Both these claims were dismissed in the judgment handed down yesterday (7 December).

Tribunal recognised biblical stance on marriage

The Tribunal held that the clear teaching of the church is that "marriage is ... a union .. of one man with one woman…".

It found that Mr Pemberton was aware that entering into a same-sex 'marriage' would mean that he would not be seen in "good standing" within the church. Therefore, his claim of harassment was invalid.

The Tribunal ruling made use of an exemption in the Equality Act which allows a religious organisation to discriminate on the grounds of marriage, if such a discrimination is due to the doctrines of the religion.

'Important decision'

Responding to the judgment, Christian Concern's Chief Executive Andrea Williams said: "The Bishops’ decision to revoke Jeremy Pemberton’s licence has been upheld and the clear teaching of the Church of England given the backing of the Employment Tribunal.

"This is an important decision for church autonomy and the rights of churches to maintain church discipline, and to expect clear moral standards of their officials and employees.

"The doctrine of the church on marriage is clear and has been upheld by the court.

"Bishops are now clearly empowered to uphold the straightforward teaching of the church that marriage is a union of one man with one woman.

"I call on the Bishops to stand up for marriage and take appropriate disciplinary action against those clergy who openly defy the church’s teaching."

Related links: 
Church free to enforce marriage teaching
Clergyman who 'married' same-sex partner granted employment tribunal appeal


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