‘Fired for getting married’ hospital chaplain loses appeal because Church of England is exempt from equality laws

A hospital chaplain who was effectively sacked after getting married has lost an appeal.

The challenge from gay former hospital chaplain Jeremy Pemberton was today thrown out by the Court of Appeal, which upheld a ruling finding that the Church of England did not violate its rules by acting to remove him.

Canon Pemberton was the first member of the Church of England clergy to enter into a same-sex marriage, when he wed his partner Laurence Cunnington in April 2014.

As the Church of England bans gay clergy from marrying, the NHS hospital chaplain had his permission to officiate revoked by a Bishop. This meant he was blocked from taking further jobs and was effectively forced out of the profession.

Canon Pemberton pursued a claim on the grounds that the Church discriminated against him because of his sexuality – but he lost a legal challenge after the church argued it was exempt from the Equality Act’s anti-discrimination protections.

The Court of Appeal sided with the Church today, upholding the original ruling.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (Getty Images)

Lord Justice Underhill said: “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.”

In a statement, Jeremy Pemberton said: “The Court of Appeal has examined the issues in my claim against Bishop Richard Inwood and has dismissed them. I am grateful for the expertise of the Court, though naturally disappointed in the judgment.

“I have reached a settlement agreement with the Church of England that I will not pursue this claim any further. They, on their part, will not apply for costs against me.”

He added: “I am more grateful than I can say to Sean Jones QC, Helen Trotter, The Worshipful Justin Gau, and Susanna Reynhart of Thompson Snell & Passmore. Since the end of the original tribunal hearing they have all represented me pro bono with great skill and commitment.

“We have worked together for three and a half years on this case, and I count myself very blessed to have had them alongside me every step of the way.

“I am also very grateful to Bishop Alan Wilson, my expert witness, and to the countless people who have written, messaged, telephoned and spoken to me expressing their support.”

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