Sex discrimination in employment within the Church of England
The principle of equality in the workplace, enshrined in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, applies to a wide category of workers. However, there are certain exceptions to the legislation. Ministers of religion are not protected by the Act where employment is limited to one sex. Historically "employment" as a Church of England priest was limited to one sex. Then in 1993, following the momentous General Synod vote, legislation was passed which allowed women to be ordained as priests. A significant change had taken place regarding the theology of the Church. This shift in theology also brought the legal position of priests, in relation to sex discrimination, into question. An initial question was, should such priests be protected by secular employment legislation? if so, what are the legal difficulties of inclusion under the Sex Discrimination Act, and what are the practical difficulties of accommodation under the Act? These questions form the foundation stones of this thesis. A four stage process was used to answer these questions. First, a philosophical analysis of the theory behind sex discrimination law was undertaken, focusing on the concepts of equality and difference. Secondly, the position of the Church of England in relation to sex discrimination law was assessed with special reference to the employment status of ministers of religion. Thirdly, drawing on the theoretical work of stages one and two, an empirical investigation into the treatment of Church of England priests was conducted. The fourth stage built upon the empirical findings and the theoretical framework. British and European Community sex discrimination law was critically analysed, as was the relevant ecclesiastical law, and recommendations for law reform were made.