The news that the Scottish Nationalist Party politician Richard Lyle thought it necessary to introduce a clause to Scotland’s gay marriage legisalation ‘stating that a potential adoptive parent or foster carer’s views on marriage cannot be taken into account during the fostering or adoption process’ raises the question will Catholics be excluded from fostering and adopting for being opposed to gay marriage?
The Express reports that Mr Lyle MSP, who adopted his daughter 31 years ago after a lengthy process, said the law could stop children being adopted. The committee rejected his proposal during its consideration of stage two amendments, along with several other amendments designed to protect religious freedom.’
Richard Lyle MSP has raised an issue that should cause serious alarm among Catholics in view of the fact that the law has already established the precedent of excluding Christians from fostering because they upheld the apostolic faith that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
In 2011 Eunice and Owen Johns were banned by the High Court from fostering anymore children because of their faith-based opposition to homosexuality. The Daily Telegraph reported at the time:
‘The couple said they felt excluded for holding “normal, mainstream, Christian views” and had been willing 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 said after losing their case at the High Court.
During the 1990s, the Pentecostal Christian couple from Derby provided foster care for nearly 20 children.
But following the introduction of equality laws, they were blocked from fostering in 2007. Social workers said the couple’s belief that homosexuality is wrong meant they were not suitable to look after a child aged between five and eight. On Monday two High Court judges backed Derby city council by ruling that homosexual rights “should take precedence” over the rights of Christians in fostering cases.
Mr and Mrs Johns, aged 62 and 65 respectively, said they were “shocked and disappointed” by the judgment.
Mrs Johns told The Daily Telegraph: “It is just one more blow for us. It seems a dark day for Christians.”
During the case, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, an official watchdog, suggested that the couple could attend a “re-education” programme, according to Mrs Johns.
“Why do we need to be re-educated? Because we believe that homosexuality is not right?” she said. “We said we would sit down and talk to the child to find out where it is coming from.
“They said, ‘No, you would have to tell the child it is all right to be homosexual because there are too many children that are confused with their sexuality.’ We thought, yes, but at eight?”
Their case was handled by Lynda Williams, a social worker, who assessed Mr and Mrs Johns in June 2008, after the council invited them to reapply to become foster parents. The national shortage of carers stands at an estimated 10,000.
In her 48-page report on the couple, Miss Williams described them as “well-meaning” and “kind and hospitable people who would always do their best to make a child welcome and comfortable”.
However, she concluded: “Mr and Mrs Johns’ views on same sex relationships, which are not in line with the current requirements of the national standards, and which are not susceptible to change, will need to be considered when the panel reaches its conclusion.”
Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that social workers were right to take the couple’s religious views into account. Under the current rules on fostering, introduced by the Labour government, councils and fostering agencies should ensure that children “are provided with foster care services which value diversity and promote equality”.
Foster carers should “recognise and address” the child’s needs, including in terms of their sexuality. Homosexual rights campaigners welcomed the ruling.
Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, said: “We’re delighted that the High Court’s landmark decision has favoured 21st century decency above 19th century prejudice.”
The Christian Legal Centre reacted to the judgment with dismay and warned that “fostering by Christians is now in doubt”.
The Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron agreed with the High Court decision to ban Eunice and Owen Johns from fostering children:
During a visit to the area, when asked about the case Mr Cameron told reporters: “This matter was decided by a court in the appropriate way and I think we should rest with the judgment that was made.”
Asked further if he thought Christian views were incompatible with an acceptance of homosexuality, he added: “I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broad-minded.”
Protect the Pope comment: The shameful treatment of Eunice and Owen Johns by the English courts shows the necessity for Richard Lyle MSP’s clause to protect the rights of Christians to foster and adopt children. The fact that the Lyle clause was thrown out shows that intolerance to Christians will be implicit in the Scottish legislation, which is the state of affairs in English same-sex law. Tragically the answer to the question , ‘will Catholics be excluded from fostering and adopting in the UK for being opposed to gay marriage?, is most probably yes.