...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 2018: Does the vicar work for god or the church?


You might think that that is a funny sort of a question, but – as Daddy Richard learned on his course – it is one that turns out to be IMPORTANT.

For a very long time, the church (and not just the Church of England but all churches in the United Kingdom) have had a special way of getting out of having to obey any laws that protect their vicars, priests, ministers or wundenoogoos from unfair treatment.

The churches have been able to say: oh, no – they don't work for US, they work for GOD!

Apparently, it is notoriously difficult to get THE GOOD LORD to present himself in an employment tribunal and serving papers on him is quite tricky too. HE is rarely even witnessed. Ironically.

Well, that seems like a jolly good wheeze, doesn't it? And it is quite funny too (so long as you are not a vicar who finds himself sacked for being too female); one of those little bits of the law that make it QUIRKY. Or BONKERS, some might say. Although you might find it PECULIAR that a church would be looking for LOOPHOLES rather than being keen to DO THE RIGHT THING.

Well all this has changed thanks to Ms HELEN PERCY who used to work for the CHURCH OF SCOTLAND but had a bit of a FALLING out with them when they caught on that she was being a bit TOO FRIENDLY with one of her parishioners. One of her slightly married parishioners.

Ms Percy was sacked, but she said that this was not fair because the church did NOT sack any of its gentleman ministers who it caught being TOO FRIENDLY.

"Ah ha!" said the church, "but you do not work for us – take it up with JEHOVAH."

"It's a fair cop," said the employment tribunal.

"Yes, they've got you there," agreed the appeals panel.

"Oh aye, you're well and truly up the loch without a caber," said the (comedy) court of session.

Finally, though, her case went all the way to my favourite CLUB: the House of Lords, and the Law Lords said…

"Just hang on a minute. What do you mean she's got no rights because her employer is being all INEFFABLE and refusing to show his COUNTENANCE DIVINE."

…and found in Ms Percy's favour.

And so the law is now, ever so slightly, less of an ASS today.

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