Anglican Church accused of human rights breach

By Abby Gillies

Bishop Ross Bay says he is following the Anglican Church's doctrine.  Photo / Steven McNicoll
Bishop Ross Bay says he is following the Anglican Church's doctrine. Photo / Steven McNicoll

The Anglican Church breached the Human Rights Act by stopping Eugene Sisneros from entering a priesthood training programme on the grounds he was in a same-sex relationship, says his lawyer.

His lawyer David Ryken gave his closing arguments today at the Human Rights Tribunal hearing in Auckland into the alleged discrimination after two days of witnesses.

Mr Ryken said that excluding someone from a training programme because of their sexuality breached Section 38 of the Human Rights Act.

He said the church could not take away the opportunity for someone to take part in training, comparing it to professional training for law school graduates.

``Any gate-keeper decision to not allow a person into professionals would equally be a breach of section 38.''

Mr Sisneros wanted the opportunity to enter the training programme, after which he understood ``there is no guarantees he would be selected for ordination'', he said.

``He knew of course that such ordinations were not without controversy.''

Mr Sisneros was not seeking money through the complaint process, but an admission of discrimination, said Mr Ryken.

The church says Mr Sisneros wasn't eligible to enter the priesthood because he isn't married to a woman or celibate.

Bishop Ross Bay said he advised Mr Sisneros that entering the programme would be a dead end because of ``considerable opposition'' from church leaders on the matter and said he was simply following the church's doctrines.

He would not be opposed to changing his stance should church leaders alter the rules regarding the ordination of homosexual priests, he said.

Bishop Bay admitted he had licensed gay and lesbian priests working in Auckland since becoming bishop, but denied any inconsistencies in his upholding of the church's doctrine in doing so.

The hearing continues.

- APNZ

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