Christian adoption advisor 'saddened' after losing discrimination case

An employment tribunal has rejected a Christian adoption advisor’s claim that she was the victim of religious discrimination.

Dr Sheila Matthews was dismissed from an adoption panel by Northamptonshire County Council after she asked for permission to abstain from voting on the placement of children with same-sex families.

She asked for an exemption on the grounds of her professional and Christians beliefs, that the best environment for a child to grow up in is within a family headed by a mother and father.

An employment tribunal in Leicester rejected her claim at the end of a two-day hearing yesterday.

According to the BBC, regional employment judge John MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews had suffered religious discrimination at the hands of the council, nor that she had been treated differently from how any other member of the panel would be treated if they asked to abstain.

He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed. This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts. In our judgement, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived … they were doomed to fail.

“There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”

According to the BBC, Dr Matthews told the hearing that her Christian beliefs led her to believe that the “most appropriate” environment for raising children was within the context of a marriage between a man and a woman.

“I believe a same-sex relationship is not the best, most healthy, environment in which to raise children,” she said.

“The overarching principle of adoption is to seek the best interests of the child who has already experienced disadvantage.”

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Matthews said she was "saddened" by the tribunal's decision and taking further legal advice.

She said she brought the case to an employment tribunal to highlight a "very worrying and damaging trend".

"Christian professionals, who seek to express their professional judgement in the very best interests of children, are being silenced or discriminated against," she said.

"There are a number of cases occurring throughout the country where sincere individuals are being accused of discrimination or promoting faith views unreasonably and it seems that the rights of other groups such as homosexual people trump that of Christian believers. I believe it should be possible in most cases to have a better balance of rights.

“I am concerned that what seems to me to be a reasonable view held by many Christians and people of other faiths and none, who are concerned for the best interests of already disadvantaged children, is being overridden by the rights of a small group of individuals.”