Christian magistrate to go to Court of Appeal over 'privatisation of faith'

A Christian magistrate is to ask the Court of Appeal to rule on how far people with deeply held religious convictions can rely on the law of the land to uphold their rights and conscience against a growing secularist agenda.

Andrew McClintock, 63, and a magistrate for 18 years on the South Yorkshire Bench, became the first judge in the land to take the Lord Chancellor to court in January.

He claimed he was forced to resign from the Court's Family Panel after court managers failed to make reasonable accommodation of his religious and philosophical beliefs on same sex adoption cases in which he might be asked to officiate.

Mr McClintock had told them he could not make an order for a child to be raised by two same-sex parents as there was scientific evidence to suggest this was not in their best interests, and, as a Christian, he felt making such a decision would go against his conscience.

He asked court staff to screen his cases so that other magistrates could preside over such cases. When court managers refused, he was forced to resign.

In January, a Sheffield Employment Tribunal refused to accept that the court had acted unreasonably and his appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal was quashed today.

Now Mr McClintock has instructed his barrister, Paul Diamond, to file papers for a hearing in the Court of Appeal as he believes the increasing secularist framework of the law is forcing into the sidelines those people whose deep personal faith motivates them into acts of public servic.

He believes that Government legislation is "privatising faith" in what was formerly known as a Christian country.

He said: "I am deeply disappointed with the Appeal's decision. For 18 years, my Christian beliefs have been well known to both my fellow magistrates and to Court officials and it was no surprise to them that when the Civil Partnerships Act enabled same-sex couples to adopt and become foster carers, I was simply seeking some form of recusal from cases where I would be forced to act contrary to my conscience.

"The Lord Chancellor's office is advertising for new magistrates from all sections of the community, but unless they are prepared to take into account the legitimate conscience needs of magistrates from Christian backgrounds (and others), they could well see not only a huge drop in recruitment but resignations from serving magistrates."

Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern For Our Nation, which has been supporting Mr McClintock through his legal action, said: "There is a prevailing secularist agenda which is pushing faith to the sidelines and quashing freedom of speech. In effect, Christians are being asked to leave their deeply held convictions and views at home and become someone else when they arrive at work or offer themselves for public service.

"Andrew McClintock is appealing to the Court of Appeal in order that this very important issue is taken very seriously at the highest levels."

Mr McClintock's appeal is likely to be heard in the New Year.