Anti-Gay British Couple Denied Foster Parent Status
A British couple in their 60s say that their religious convictions "doomed" their bid to become foster parents because they were not willing to tell any hypothetical small child they might have in their care that it’s okay to be gay, the BBC reported on Feb. 28.
As EDGE reported three years ago, Eunice and Owen Johns, who are Pentecostal Christians, were turned down by the Derby City Council as prospective weekend foster caretakers for young children because they told a panel that they would not be able to reassure any gay kids they might find themselves caring for that it’s okay to be gay.
The local government’s spokesperson was not able to speak specifically to the Johns’ case, but she did say that the couple was refused on the basis of a law called the Sexual Orientation Act, the BBC News reported at the time.
At the time, a Derby council cabinet member, Sarah Bolton, said of the Johns’ claim, "This is an unfortunate case. But these laws are in place for the good of the children in our care."
Bolton added, "We need to treat everybody fairly because we’re looking after vulnerable children who have been through some quite horrific incidents in their lives, and therefore we need to keep strictly to the legislation and the policy."
"They asked, ’What would you do if a child came home at the age of 10 and said to you that they’ve been picked on because they’re homosexual? Do you know you’d have to tell them it’s okay to be homosexual?’ " Eunice Johns recounted in the 2008 article. "I said, ’I can’t do that. My Christian beliefs won’t let me do that.’ "
Mrs. Johns went on, "I would try and assure the child the best I can and tell them, ’I am a Christian and I don’t believe in homosexuality, but I can give you as much love and security as I possibly can.’ "
The couple took their case to court. Three years later, the High Court has ruled against them, the BBC’s follow-up article said. Lord Justice Munby and Mr. Justice Beatson found in their verdict that anti-discrimination laws "should take precedence" over faith-based claims. Otherwise, gay children could end up in the care of foster parents who would subject them to discriminatory treatment and attitudes.
The High Court noted that in such a case, "there may well be a conflict with the local authority’s duty to ’safeguard and promote the welfare’ of looked-after children," the BBC reported.
As to any claim that the court’s finding constituted "a threat to religious liberty," the court said, "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." Rather, the court’s concern was with the messages and treatment that a gay child might receive at the hands of foster parents with anti-gay beliefs, be they grounded in religion or otherwise.
The Johns, however, implied that it was their Christian values that "doomed" their quest to become foster parents.
"All we wanted was to offer a loving home to a child in need," Eunice Johns, 62, told the media after hearing the court’s verdict. "We have a good track record as foster parents," added Ms. Johns, who has had four children with her husband, who is 65. The couple had fostered more than a dozen children in the 1990s.
"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," added Johns. "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."
A Derby City Council spokesperson told the media that the court had "valued diversity and promoted equality" in its ruling. Moreover, the High Court had "encouraged and supported children in a non judgmental way, regardless of their sexual orientation or preference," the spokesperson said.