Eunice and Owen Johns (Photo Christian Legal Centre)
A court ruling has found that Christians who want to provide foster care for needy children must promote homosexuality to them and that there is only a “qualified” right to exercise their Christian beliefs.
The judgment comes in a claim by a Christian couple that their biblical beliefs in opposition to homosexual behavior were being used by the government to discriminate against them regarding their application to be foster parents.
The couple, Eunice and Owen Johns, previously had provided foster care in the United Kingdom and had applied to resume their work, but suddenly became the target of government rejection because they expressed their Christian beliefs regarding homosexuality.
According to the Christian Legal Centre, which also posted online the judges’ decision in the landmark High Court case, the judges refused to say the Johns should be allowed to provide foster care.
“There now appears to be nothing to stop the increasing bar on Christians who wish to adopt or foster children but who are not willing to compromise their beliefs by promoting the practice of homosexuality to small children,” the organization said.
The judges, however, said it was the couples’ view on homosexuality, not their biblically based beliefs about homosexuality, that created the problem. And the judges went further, declaring that Christianity has no role in the concept of justice in the UK.
According to the opinion authored by Lord Justice Munby and Mr. Justice Beatson, “the laws and usages of the realm do not include Christianity, in whatever form.” They said, “the aphorism that ‘Christianity is part of the common law of England’ is mere rhetoric; at least since the decision of the House of Lords in Bowman v Secular Society Limited … it has been impossible to contend that it is law.”
“It is important to realize that reliance upon religious belief, however conscientious the belief and however ancient and respectable the religion, can never of itself immunize the believer from the reach of the secular law. And invocation of religious belief does not necessarily provide a defense to what is otherwise a valid claim,” they wrote.
The judges noted Article 9 of the European Convention, which explains all have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the related “practice and observance,” but they said the “manifestation” of Christianity is subject to “qualifications.”
Munby and Beatson endorsed the belief that it “cannot therefore be justified” that a position “held purely on religious grounds” could be defended by the law.
On the specific issue of requiring foster parents to promote homosexuality, the judges said. “If children, whether they are known to be homosexuals or not, are placed with carers who … evince an antipathy, objection to or disapproval of, 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 ruling continued, “While as between the protected rights concerning religion and sexual orientation there is no hierarchy of rights, there may, as this case shows, be a tension between equality provisions concerning religious discrimination and those concerning sexual orientation.
“Where this is so … the National Minimum Standards for Fostering and the Statutory Guidance indicate that it must be taken into account and in this limited sense the equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence.”
Munby and Beatson said in their ruling that there is only a “qualified” right “to manifest religious belief” and that “interferences in the sphere of employment and analogous spheres are readily found to be justified, even where the members of a particular religious group will find it difficult in practice to comply.”
According to the Christian Legal Centre, the “judgment strongly affirms homosexual rights over freedom of conscience and leaves the Johns currently unable to foster a child as desired, despite their proven track record as foster parents.”
The organization continued, “The summary contained in 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.”
The organization called the judges’ claim that the Johns “were being excluded from fostering due to their moral views on sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs” a matter of “disingenuous” statements.
“The Johns’ moral views cannot be separated from their religious beliefs.”
The Johns told the Christian Legal Centre “we have been excluded because we have moral opinions based on our faith, and a vulnerable child has now probably missed the chance of finding a safe and caring home. … Being a Christian is not a crime and should not stop us from raising children.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre, said the family was “humiliated and sidelined and told by a government body … that their mainstream Christian views might ‘infect’ children. They have also effectively been told by British judges that their views may harm children.”
Williams continued, “The judges have claimed that there was no discrimination against the Johns as Christians because they were being excluded from fostering due to their sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs. This claim that their moral beliefs on sex have nothing to do with the Christian faith is a clear falsehood made in order to justify their ruling. How can the judges get away with this?”
J.E. Dyer, on the Hot Air Green Room blog, said the judges’ interpretation of the law “is idiotic on its face. … The next obvious step is ruling that parents must endorse homosexuality to their own children.”
“If the British High Court deems Christian beliefs on homosexuality ‘inimical to the interests of children,’ it will justify intervening between parents and their natural children, just as governments do the world over when child welfare is at issue.”
WND recently reported that the last Catholic adoption agency in the UK was fighting for its life after being told it must give up its faith or close down.
That report at the Christian Institute, which exists for “the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion,” reported Catholic Care is the only one of 11 British Catholic adoption agencies operating in 2007 that has not been shut down.
Others have fallen to the bludgeoning of government regulations that demand that adoption agencies promote children to homosexual couples as well as married couples – whether or not their faith allows it.
The Christian Institute said the nation’s Charity Commission interprets the Labour Party’s regulations to mean that Catholic “adoption agencies must place children for adoption with same-sex couples, despite it being contrary to church teaching.”
Catholic Care already has been told by the commission that church teachings on homosexuality “didn’t justify their refusal to place children with homosexuals,” reported the Institute, which according to director Colin Hart is a nondenominational Christian
charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible that is supported
by individuals and churches throughout the U.K.
An appeal, however, has been filed on the decision.
“The commission is wrong in its decision,” the Institute reported London solicitor Benjamin James saying. “We have lodged an appeal with the charity tribunal and the charity tribunal will request that the Charity Commission responds within 28 days.”
The case developed as concern grows that Christians rapidly are losing their rights in the U.K. to the bludgeoning of “rules” adopted to favor homosexuals and other alternative lifestyles.
The Institute cited the reports earlier in 2010 of two bed-and-breakfast owners who were accused of refusing to provide double-bed accommodations to homosexuals.