October 24, 2005

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO I CAN DO BETTER

Sex bias case tests church rule that clergy's boss is God (Clare Dyer, The Guardian, October 24th, 2005)

How do you launch a claim for sex discrimination if your employer is God? Helen Percy was suspended from her job as an associate Church of Scotland minister in the Angus glens in 1997 when as a single woman she was accused of having sex with a married elder. She resigned and took a claim for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination to an employment tribunal.

But her case has been thrown out by the tribunal, the employment appeal tribunal, and the court of session in Edinburgh. Each institution ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the case - because in Britain, uniquely, clergy enjoy none of the employment rights the rest of us take for granted. An earlier case involving a Church of England rector, Ray Owen, found that, under laws dating back nearly a century, clergy were not church employees at all but office holders - in effect employed by God.

Today Ms Percy's eight-year battle - now a claim for sex discrimination only - will go to the House of Lords, which could rule that in the 21st century clergy should, like everyone else, have the rights and protections that go with holding down a job. Mr Owen's attempt to take his case to the lords failed in 2001, when they refused his petition to hear the case.

Ms Percy, 39, claimed she was forced to resign from her post, covering six glen parishes in east Scotland at the southernmost edge of the Grampian mountains, after her relationship with a kirk elder, which she said involved sexual intercourse on one occasion, became public. She alleged in her tribunal application that she was discriminated against because the kirk had "not taken similar action against male ministers who are known to have had/are still having extra marital sexual relationships". She claims compensation for lost income, housing and pension benefits, and damages for stress-related illness and injury to her feelings.

Nineteenth century feminism focused in large part on reining in male misbehavior. The modern version just wants to join the party.


Posted by Peter Burnet at October 24, 2005 6:13 AM
Comments

Ms Percy should have been fired - and so should almost any male minister having extra marital affairs.

Ms Percy was clearly discriminated against.

Whether the House of Lords should do anything about it, I dunno.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2005 3:34 PM
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