Trade Unions have lost their case with the churches in the High Court over employment equality for lesbian and gay people in faith-based organisations. However, they have been given permission to appeal.
While some conservative church groups welcomed the decision, the High Court judge ruled that the new employment protection regulations which allow faith-based employers to refuse to employ gay workers does not apply to teachers in faith schools. Mr Justice Richards said that the exemption to the Government’s 2003 Employment Equality regulations apply to those working for faith-based employers other than schools.
Seven unions, including the TUC, brought the case because they believed that the exemption secured for faith-based organisations went against the spirit and letter of the European Union directive, designed to provide lesbian and gay people with protection from discrimination. But while teaching unions wlcomed the judge’s ruling that the clause did not apply to schools, they were unhappy that he upheld the legality of the clause. Doug McAvoy of the National Union of Teachers said that the ruling would “prevent the overzealous and misinformed interpretation of the regulation that has been suggested and which caused concern to teachers in faith schools.”
But Brendan Barber of the TUC said that judgement was disappointing. “The unions took the case because they believed that a very important issue was at stake, and that no one should be treated differently at work because of their sexuality. The unions will be consulting with their legal teams over the next few days to decide what to do next.”
The Evangelical Alliance said they were delighted with the judicial review. “The outcome of the case will enable religious organisations to preserve their ethos and act with integrity,” said Martyn Eden of the Evangelical Alliance. The EA, Care and the Christian Schools Trust intervened in the Judicial review to ensure that the freedom of religious groups to employ those in line with their beliefs was protected.