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November 1st, 2010
05:54 PM ET

Would-be Christian foster parents sue, alleging discrimination

Editor's Note: CNN's Richard Allen Greene files this report from London.

Denied permission to foster children because their Christian beliefs won't let them say homosexuality is OK, a British couple took their local council to court Monday. It's a groundbreaking case, Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission said.

"It's raised a really interesting question that needs to be addressed, and we are very keen to see what the court will decide in this case," the commission's Zena Ambrose said, adding that the case was "broad-ranging and sets a legal precedent."

"How do you balance between a person's right to practice their religion and the right to have a sexual orientation?" she asked. Eunice and Owen Johns are suing the Derby City Council to force a clarification in British law, their legal team said Monday.

They applied to be foster parents in January 2007, but their application was halted later that year, they say.

The Johnses' "orthodox Christian views on the practice of homosexuality and their commitment to attending church with their children came to the notice of a social worker. As a result of this they were withdrawn from the process," says the Christian Legal Centre, which is assisting them.

"If the court believes that Christian views on homosexuality can be discriminated against, the state has taken a position on a moral question; namely that such religious belief is morally problematic," said Andrea Minichiello-Williams, the director of the legal group.

She said it was "a remarkable reversal in the concept of the public good and the traditional definition of sexual morality" that the court even needed to consider whether traditional Christians were fit to be foster parents. The city council declined to comment on the case because it is ongoing.

The council, in northern England, has a shortage of foster parents, it said in a statement last month unrelated to the case.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is involved in the case as an adviser, explaining relevant law to the judge, Ambrose said. It is not taking sides.

The High Court judge will have to balance competing rights, since it is against British law to discriminate on the basis of either religion or sexual orientation - in this case, against Christians or against gay people. Relevant human rights law suggests that freedom of religion is not absolute, Ambrose said.

"There is case law that establishes that the right to practice religion can be curtailed," she explained. "You can't use religion as a way of saying you are allowed to treat somebody else less humanely."

The case has echoes of other recent legal actions in Britain. A Catholic adoption agency was told this summer by England's Charity Commission that it could not place children only with heterosexual parents.

And the British Supreme Court sided against a Christian woman who said she was was forced to quit her job for refusing to register same-sex civil partnerships.

The High Court case is expected to wrap up Tuesday. It's not clear how long it will take for a ruling.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Courts • Europe • United Kingdom

soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. GSA

    @Jaz-There is nothing wrong with a gay couple adopting a child, now if that gay couple was going to adopt a child and believed that all straight ppl were living a lifestyle that was considered evil and a sin and were going to teach that type of hatred to the child, then they should not be allowed to adopt, pretty simple logic that goes both ways.

    November 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  2. CSmith

    The typical way to balance rights should be applied here: My right to swing my fist ends at your nose. This means, I can swing my fist anywhere I want, until it violates your right to keep your nose in tact (or similar body parts). A Christian's right to foster children and teach them Christian values ends when that process denies a child the right to be gay. Short of chaining their child up to keep them from 'acting gay' (or other already abusive behavior), I can't see how that right is being challenged.

    November 3, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  3. Jono.

    Shows how backward society has become, when people who ascribe to an authority higher then themselves are treated as dangerous. Especially when their beliefs are as rational as anyone elses. Just because their morality does not change with the fasion does not make their morality invalid, in fact it has stood the test of time and set the fundation to many great nations.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:24 am |
  4. Jaz

    I'm a Christian and I certainly don't hate anyone who is hom<os<exual. Do I think hom<os<exu<ality is a sin? Yes. But I don't look at the sin, I look at the person. Because I am a sinner too. So as a foster parent I would bring my children up firstly to LOVE everyone, regardless of their habits, sins and beliefs, and to know that despite sins, Jesus loves us and we are called to love others too and accept and welcome everyone without judgement. That's actually what Christianity is about. Nowhere does the article say that the would-be foster parents are anti gay PEOPLE. And no child should be denied a loving home simply because they will be taken to church (oh NO!!) and 'Indoctrinated" (OH NO!). Foster children are in need of a stable, loving upbringing. If the would-be-foster parents' only crime is that they believe hom<os<ex<uality is wrong, should that be seen as discrimination again PEOPLE who are gay!? Honestly. The whole gay thing is just out of control. YOu have your rights, but don't try take Christian's rights away from us!!!!

    November 2, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
    • Jaz

      What about children's rights to loving parents? and by the way, I have PLENTY gay friends.

      November 2, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      At the risk ouf using a cliche, I thnk it is safe to say that adoption is not a right, it is a privledge, and only the qualified need apply. Bringing up children to believe that they are sinners, that being gay is sinful, etc., etc., is child abuse. If you need additonal children to brainwash, create your own. In other words, if anyone is deemed unfit to adopt, no right has been taken away and you probably have other ways to attract members to your cult.

      November 2, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  5. Iqbal khan

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCwfFepY4Xc&w=640&h=360]

    November 2, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
  6. archaeologist

    it is clear that the unchurched world hates Christ so much that they will stoop to any level to stop children from having a good an dloving home. the children have the right to free choice and can accept or reject the principles taught by both christian and unchristian parents. it is not the right of any agency to apply their own personal hatred towards religious people at the expense of doing good and deprioving religious people the opportunity to help. that is like cutting one's nose off to spite their face. the secular world needs to get over their bias, their personal over-reactions and see the bigger picture, they will give an account to God for their acions even in this scenario. in the long run christians will win but children will lose out.

    November 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
    • Jay

      I see you do not appreciate being treated as second class citizens, similar to gays and their rights to adopt...

      November 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @archaeologist

      Please explain how a child successfully tells their parents, biological or otherwise, that they will not be attending the parent's house-of-stupidity next religious-day-of-the-week. It's not going to happen! Pretty much the only reason religion is growing at all is because of births – children inherent their parent's beliefs, which are largely driven by geography. If you don't believe me, check out world religion stats available on the web from various orgs including religion based ones.

      November 2, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • jimbob

      well,all i can say is that its a shame when gays can adopt a child and them being the way they are,and a good god loving couple cant foster a child because they jus happen to believe in gods word and what HE SAID(GET REAL PEOPLE)i mean(why did god destroy sodom and gomorah?)filth and all kinds of unseemly things going on in that city.and by the way read romans chapter 1 verses 16 on through TO END OF CHAPTER(SEE WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT IT)THE DAYS A COMING PEOPLE AND IT DONT MATTER WHETHER YOU WANNA BELIEVE IT OR NOT(YOU WILL BE THERE)AND MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOULS

      March 1, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  7. Adrian Emanuel Najda

    We warmly welcome I would like to witness my obiawienia and healing through God
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBnAFFhmj08&w=640&h=360]

    November 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.