22/11/2011 12:20 GMT

Reverend Mark Sharpe Sues Church After Parishioners 'Poisoned His Dog'

A vicar who claims he was subjected to years of intimidation and bullying in his constituency has launched a constructive dismissal claim against the Church of England.

Mark Sharpe, 44, resigned as the parish priest of Teme Valley South Ministry in Worcestershire in January 2005.

He said parishioners poisoned his dog, slashed the tyres of his car and smeared animal excrement over the family car.

Sharpe said the trouble started when he tried to reconcile competing factions within the local area and was disliked as he was seen as an outsider.

"Because it is a remote area, the church is the only institution, and, consequently, the only vehicle the locals have to exercise any power," he originally told the Daily Mail back in 2009.

"This is a local parish for local people - that is the attitude."

The Unite union said at the time the church had failed in its duty to protect Sharpe. Rachael Maskell, the union's community and non profit sector said the church needed to introduce proper employment rights for clergy.

”This is a toxic parish with a 40-year history of clergy leaving abruptly or in broken health. The bishops knew the history involved and failed to exercise their duty of care in the legal or moral respects. They have failed both as employers and Christians," she said.

”The Church of England needs to introduce the full range of employment rights for its entire clergy, including Section 23 of the 1999 Employment Relations Act.”

Sharpe said he assumed being a priest would provide him with employment rights the same as other employees.

"I always thought by being ordained at York Minster that was some kind of employment contract," he said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The paper reported on Tuesday that the diocese had initially conceded Sharpe was entitled to bring a claim. But now they have asked a judge to reverse that decision.

Sharpe previously resigned his position as a Royal Navy chaplain after he said he was exposed to pornography on board two warships.