Court ruling on Christian foster parents is ‘concerning’

The High Court had been asked to rule on whether the traditional views of Christian couple Owen and Eunice Johns should be a bar to them becoming foster carers.

Their legal bid came after Derby City Council halted their application process when the couple admitted they would not be able to condone the homosexual lifestyle to a child in their care because of their beliefs on marriage as a union between a man and woman.

Although the High Court did not go as far as to ban all orthodox Christians from becoming foster carers, its ruling yesterday stated that laws protecting the rights of homosexuals should take precedence over laws protecting religious beliefs.

It is now unlikely that the Johns, who have fostered 15 children previously, will be approved as foster carers unless Derby City Council changes its position.

The Christian Institute expressed particular concern over the High Court’s conclusion that “the attitudes of potential carers to sexuality are relevant when considering an application for approval”.

In a statement, the organisation said: “Neither this case law nor the comments of the judges in the Johns’ case require local authorities to turn down potential foster carers on the basis of their religious or moral beliefs.

“Crucially, the judgment does not impose a ban on Christians with orthodox biblical beliefs about homosexuality (or any other matter) from fostering children.

“However, there is clearly a problem in one area. The courts are effectively ruling that Christians are not protected by indirect discrimination laws.

“When an organisation or person applies a rule to everyone which will always disproportionately affect Christians, court rulings consistently find ways of justifying the discrimination against Christians, particularly where there is a conflict of rights.”

The Johns were supported in their legal bid by the Christian Legal Centre, which said it would seek the launch of an independent inquiry by Prime Minister David Cameron into the legality of Christians being excluded from foster caring on the grounds of their religious beliefs.

Reacting to the ruling, the couple were particularly upset by the wording of a submission from the taxpayer-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission which stated that children risk being “infected” by Christian moral beliefs.

In a joint statement, they said: “We have been excluded because we have moral opinions based on our faith, and a vulnerable child has probably now missed the chance of finding a safe and caring home.

“We do not believe that our ordinary Christian moral views are infectious … Being a Christian is not a crime and should not stop us from raising children.”

The Christian Institute also criticised the Equality Commission over its submission and urged the Government to act on the treatment of Christians under the equality laws.

“It is very clear that equality laws are leaving Christians at the bottom of the pile. The Christian Institute calls on Parliament to act urgently to protect the rights of Christians and sort out this obvious injustice,” it said.

“Once again the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission has taken advantage and weighed in, urging the courts to rule against Christians.

“It is high time Parliament put a stop to the Commission’s bias against Christians.”