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Christian foster parents case. - DanielM - 09-03-2011 12:56 AM

I read this article last week, and wondered if anyone has any thoughts.

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A Christian couple opposed to homosexuality have lost a battle over their right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, 62 and 65, from Derby, said the city council did not want them to look after children because of their traditional views.

The pair, who are Pentecostal Christians, say they were "doomed not to be approved".

The High Court ruled that laws protecting people from sexual discrimination should take precedence.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers.

They withdrew their application after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable.

At the High Court, they asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and the law should protect their Christian values.
Moral opinions

But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation "should take precedence" over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

They said that if children were placed with carers who objected to homosexuality and same-sex relationships, "there may well be a conflict with the local authority's duty to 'safeguard and promote the welfare' of looked-after children".

The case is likely to be seen as a landmark decision, as senior judges ruled so decisively against any idea that attitudes might be justified purely because they were Christian in origin.

The court discriminated between kinds of Christianity, saying that Christians in general might well make good foster parents, while people with traditionalist Christian views like Mr and Mrs Johns might well not.

Such views, said the judges, might conflict with the welfare of children.

Significantly, the court said that while there was a right not to face discrimination on the basis on either religion or sexual orientation, equality of sexual orientation took precedence.

This was the most decisive ruling against the idea of Christian values underpinning English law since judges ruled last year that to protect views simply because they were religious would be irrational, divisive and arbitrary.

Today the message was that courts would interpret the law in cases like the Johns' according to secular and not religious values.

They rejected suggestions that the case involved "a threat to religious liberty", adding: "No one is asserting that Christians - or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims - are not fit and proper persons to foster or adopt. No-one is contending for a blanket ban."

Speaking outside the court in London, Mrs Johns said: "All we wanted was to offer a loving home to a child in need. We have a good track record as foster parents.

"We have been excluded because we have moral opinions based on our faith and we feel sidelined because we are Christians with normal, mainstream, Christian views on sexual ethics.

"We are prepared to love and accept any child. All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing."

The couple, who cared for about 15 children in the 1990s, have called for a public inquiry into the matter.

Derby City Council has welcomed the court's ruling.

A spokesman said the authority "valued diversity and promoted equality" and "encouraged and supported children in a non judgmental way, regardless of their sexual orientation or preference".

He added: "The court confirmed that the local authority is properly entitled to consider a prospective foster carer's views on sexuality when considering their application to become a foster parent and in fact, failure to do so would potentially leave it in breach of its own guidance as well as the National Minimum Standards."

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, the [censored], gay and bisexual charity, said: "Thankfully, Mr and Mrs Johns' out-dated views aren't just out of step with the majority of people in modern Britain, but those of many Christians too.

"If you wish to be involved in the delivery of a public service, you should be prepared to provide it fairly to anyone."

But the Christian Legal Centre reacted to the ruling with dismay and warned that "fostering by Christians is now in doubt".

The organisation said the judgment "sends out the clear message that orthodox Christian ethical beliefs are potentially harmful to children and that Christian parents with mainstream Christian views are not suitable to be considered as potential foster parents".


- Antony-Paul - 09-03-2011 07:41 PM

This report follows another recent instance in the west country where Christian owners of a hotel were convicted of unfair discrimination when they refused accommodation to a couple because it was contrary to their faith. The couple were either unmarried or single-sex, I cannot recall which. But either way it is another example of the deplorable lowering of the moral standards in this country in order to give credence to politically correct notions which are clearly contrary to Christian principles.

With the Christian community becoming more marginalised and smaller in numbers we can only try to make our position well known and, above all, pray that God will support us and bring about a change of heart in the authorities.


- Fr Gregory - 10-03-2011 07:39 AM

My first career after leaving University was working with disturbed children. I was therefore often involved in assessing foster parents. As a general principle, I would not consider people suitable as foster parents who express any strong prejudices which may negatively impact on the children who may be in their (temporary) care. Would we accept people as foster parents who proclaim that “Jews are Christ-killers” or “Black people are less than human”? Disapproving of something – be it homosexual behaviour, unmarried mothers, or couples “living in sin” – is one thing. Promoting prejudice is another. I don’t have sufficient knowledge of the case mentioned to evaluate it in detail. But I would hope that it involved more than simply holding that some behaviour is not acceptable to people holding certain religious beliefs. Children being placed in foster care are usually very fragile and vulnerable: they need unconditional love, not messages implying condemnation or rejection of anyone.

As for the bed and breakfast: while I am happy to allow businesses to exclude whoever they like, if we say that they can exclude one category (for example, same sex couples), why can’t they put out signs such as used to be seen at some establishments in Great Britain many years ago: “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs”? Or “No Christians”? Or “No Jews”? The principle underlying anti-discrimination law is that public businesses (as opposed to private households) receive public benefits (for example, the ability to claim certain expenses as tax deductions). Why should those who are excluded by the businesses be required to pay taxes and rates to support the businesses who refuse to deal with them? I am quite happy for my local supermarket to refuse to serve Orthodox Priests. But I then want my council rates and income tax reduced because I would otherwise be paying to provide benefits to a business that refuses to deal with me.

In my private home I claim the right (which I can do under Australian equal opportunity law) to discriminate to my heart’s content. I can advertise for a “female, Oriental Orthodox, heterosexual, married, blonde, blue-eyed, Anglo-Celtic, able-bodied housekeeper between 25 and 30 years of age”. But my private employment of a housekeeper attracts no State support. I might note that my 76 year old, English, grey-haired, brown-eyed housekeeper (who is happily married) would take great exception to me publishing such an advertisement!

I have two concerns about these issues. First, why should Christians be promoting discrimination at all? Recall who was the first “evangelist” in the Lord’s ministry. If you don’t know the answer, I’m happy to post it. And reflect on the question: “Who is my neighbour?”

Second, the churches continue to promote an image of being obsessed with sex. Are we equally eager to denounce and exclude hypocrites and liars and those who defraud widows and orphans? Those who ignore the plight of starving children? Men who, living in a wholly monogamous heterosexual marriage, regularly violently assault their wives? If so, where are the churches doing so? A quick reading of the Gospels provides a clear indication of our Lord’s moral priorities. Perhaps someone can provide a quick count of how often he referred to sexual sin as opposed to other forms of sin. It seems to me he much more often denounced religious hypocrisy than any other form of immorality.

Fr Gregory


- Antony-Paul - 11-03-2011 01:36 PM

Dear Father Gregory,

I cannot comment upon Daniel's story, but I quite understand the point you make in relation to the hotelier story. However, the business was advertised as a Christian establishment, not just 'an hotel', so surely it is not unreasonable to expect visitors to adhere to Christian principles. When they did not they were asked to leave.

Your observation of the Christian ideal of being non-judgemental is also understandable. But can you reconcile this with Jesus' activity in the temple? The temple was clearly a building consecrated to the worship of God, and this would be well understood by the population, yet they desecrated it by using it for trade. He reacted to this with anger and threw the traders out. Surely this is a parallel with the hotel case, and an example of justifiable judgementalism?


- Fr Gregory - 13-03-2011 02:30 AM

Assuming that “the business was advertised as a Christian establishment”, I really have no idea what that means. For example, Orthodox? Roman Catholic? Anglican? Putting that aside, should the owners therefore be permitted to exclude Jews? Buddhists? Atheists? Should another such business be entitled to declare itself to be a “white establishment” and exclude people with black skins? If people wish to receive guests in their own home they can discriminate to whatever degree makes them happy. If they want to operate a public business they should not be able to do so.

There is nothing in any of the reports I have read to suggest that the would-be guests were excluded for unacceptable behaviour. They were excluded because of their sexuality not for sexual activity. Obviously, any business has a right to impose standards of behaviour on customers; discrimination against a person is different to enforcement of such standards.

And it was in relation to behaviour that the Lord threw the traders out of the Temple. He did not exclude them for being, say, left-handed, but for engaging in conduct that he regarded as wrong. You might, however, note that the Temple authorities did not regard such behaviour as wrong. Trade was an essential part of Temple worship – for example, the buying of lambs for sacrifice. The Temple could not have functioned without the income from such commerce, and it was not considered “desecration”. It is most probable that the Lord’s action was directed not at the trade itself, but as dishonesty and exploitation in the trade (see, for example, Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47). We often romantically imagine the Temple as a quiet house of prayer and contemplation: the Court of the Gentiles, where this event almost certainly took place, was a location specifically established for the purpose of purchasing sacrificial animals and a place where Jewish pilgrims could exchange their foreign coinage for the appropriate local currency.

Fr Gregory


- DanielM - 29-03-2011 03:19 PM

ah, I was hoping this wouldn't come to a discussion about the B&B, as I consider the cases polar opposites.

The case of the hotelier that would not accept a openly homosexual couple to their establishment is awful. I do not see how someone who professes themself a Christian could show such ignorance. Do they not know about the good Samaritan? or the many tales of people inviting strangers and foreigners into their houses? Surely they feared some suspirious actions from these people from abroad? But in their grace they invited them in.

Surely to not offer a home to someone based on their lifestyle is to judge them, and not to give them credit based on their own merits. I know we cannot see homosexual acts as acceptable, but it does not mean we have the right to criticise. We need to remember that such distinguised Orthodox thinkers as Fr. Seraphim Rose struggled with this sin. So who are we to banish people from our establishments because they struggle with sins of their own.

As for the case of the foster parents. I have also read recently that this decision was based on them being asked a hypothetical question along the lines of "if the child asked if homosexuality was acceptable, what would you say?" and they answered by saying it is against God's way. based on this, they were considered unfit to be foster parents, regardless of their record of being great foster parents.

I wonder if they would ask the same to a Muslim or Orthodox Jewish family, knowing what their faith states, and if they would come to the same judgement. Maybe this case shows the lack of acceptence of "undiluted" Christian belief, and an expectance of Christians to be less rigid and steadfast, by the standards of Secular society.