22 December 2011 #Employment
As reported in our previous blog, Reverend Sharpe, a former Minister had filed a claim in the Employment Tribunal of unfair dismissal against the Diocese of Worcester.
Lawyers for the Diocese of Worcester argued that ecclesiastical laws hold that Church of England clergy are not employees but office holders ‘employed by God’. They therefore contended that Reverend Sharpe was not eligible to bring an action for unfair dismissal as ‘God cannot be sued’.
In a similar case, the Court of Appeal has this week determined that Reverend Haley Preston was employed by the Methodist Church rather than God, as had been argued by the Methodist Church. As such, she is entitled to bring a claim of unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal.
Lord Justice Maurice Kay said, whatever the stance of the Church, "It surely does not embrace a doctrinal belief that a minister who is treated with unfairness or discrimination must be denied common legal redress". He concluded: "This is not a case where the evidence establishes that the existence of a contract of employment between the Church and a minister is contrary to its tenets."
This Judgment should allow Mr Sharpe to proceed with his case against the Diocese of Worcester as Court of Appeal Judgments are binding on the Employment Tribunal.