National Secular Society: ‘Urgent review’ needed after Church blocks gay chaplain from NHS job

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The National Secular Society has called for the government to hold an urgent review, after a gay chaplain was blocked from taking up an NHS job because he married his same-sex partner.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton, 58, was the first member of the clergy to enter into a same-sex marriage in April, when he wed his partner Laurence Cunnington, in defiance of the Church’s ban.

He later had his permission to officiate revoked by the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, meaning he was unable to take up a new job with the NHS in Nottinghamshire. Yesterday, he confirmed that the NHS had since retracted the job offer, as a result of the Church’s action.

Stephen Evans of the National Secular Society said: “NHS chaplains are supposed to be offering a service to all patients.

“It’s therefore concerning that the Church of England can block an individual from such a position on the basis of their sexual orientation or their entering into a legal marriage.

“In today’s diverse and pluralist society, where the majority are non-religious, the provision and funding of NHS services within a specifically religious framework needs urgent review.”

Last month, former Tory Chair Lord Fowler called for the Government to step in to help Pemberton and people in similar cases.

He said: “Given that there are other clergymen at similar risk, will the minister as a matter of good will look at the position here and see if there is anything that could be done to help reconcile the difficulties?”

Vicar Andrew Cain, who also faces potential punishment after marrying his same-sex partner, said: “I think it would be wonderful if the government would step in and talk sense to the Church of England.”

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