A vicar who claimed he was hounded out of his job by parishioners on the south Shropshire border has failed in his bid to sue church leaders for constructive dismissal, because he is effectively employed by God.
The Reverend Mark Sharpe, 44, resigned from his post as rector of Teme Valley South, near Tenbury Wells, in September 2009.
He alleged he had been the victim of a campaign of harassment and intimidation.
He said he had received no support from the Bishop and Diocese of Worcester and tried to bring a case of constructive dismissal against the diocese.
But an employment judge has ruled he cannot pursue legal action as he was not an employee of the diocese while at Teme Valley South.
Now Mr Sharpe and officials at the Unite union are considering their next step.
During a five-day employment tribunal in Birmingham in November, lawyers representing the Diocese of Worcester pointed to ecclesiastical laws which state clergy are not employees.
They claimed officers are 'employed by God' and therefore not eligible to take a case against the church.
In a 54-page judgment Judge McCarry said: "The claimant was not an employee of Worcester Diocesan Board of Finance Ltd or the Bishop of Worcester.
"The claimant was not a 'worker' within the meaning of section 320 of the Employment Rights Act, even as extended by section 43K of the Act. These claims consequently fail and are dismissed."
Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, said: "The tribunal has recognised that those clergy who are freehold incumbents are not employees of the bishop, the diocesan board of finance or anyone else."
A Unite spokesman said: "We are very disappointed with the decision. We are discussing the implications."
During the hearing, Mr Sharpe has claimed his family had been subjected to numerous incidents of harassment including the poisoning of a dog.
Locals drove me out Shropshire vicar tells tribunal Read more: http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2011/11/23/locals-drove-me-out-shropshire-vicar-tells-tribunal/#ixzz1n0r4GWCX