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Couple Rejected: Will Christians Be Allowed to Provide Foster Care in England?

By Deacon Keith Fournier
March 3rd, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What happened to Eunice and Owen Johns this past week concerning their participation in foster care is ominous. What is next for Catholics and other Christians if this trend continues?  We are in the throes of a Cultural Revolution involving two competing visions of the human person, human flourishing, the true nature of marriage - the family and society founded upon it - and the definition of the common good. These two visions of the human person and human freedom are in conflict.

NOTTINGHAM, England (Catholic Online) - Christian Concerns, a public interest legal group in England, reported on a disturbing Court ruling in an article entitled "High Court Judgment Suggests Christian beliefs Harmful to Children".  A Protestant Pentecostal couple has been disqualified from being foster parents, in effect, because they are Christians.  The Catholic News Agency in an article entitled "British court says Christian couple can't adopt due to beliefs." offered this summary of what occurred:

"Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, are Pentecostal Christians from the city of Derby and have cared for 15 foster children in the past. Following the ruling, Eunice Johns said she and her husband were "extremely distressed" at the ruling handed down in Nottingham Crown Court.  "All we wanted to do was to offer a loving home to a child in need," Eunice Johns said. "We have a good track record as foster parents, but because we are Christians with mainstream views on sexual ethics, we are apparently unsuitable as foster parents. The judges have suggested that our views might harm children. We have been told by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that our moral views may 'infect' a child. We do not believe that this is so."

The ruling is part of a trend in England since the passage in 2007 of the "Equality Act Sexual Orientation Regulations" The Court ruled that if children were placed with people like Eunice and Owen Johns who hold classical Christian views on morality "there may well be a conflict with the local authority's duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children." They gave lip service to religious freedom but held that in foster care "sexual orientation should take precedence." They also insisted that a foster family exhibit "positive attitudes towards homosexuality." Finally, they held that the "Article 9 [of the European Human Rights Act] only provides a 'qualified' right to manifest religious belief and ... this will be particularly so where a person in whose care a child is placed wishes to manifest a belief that is inimical to the interests of children."  The Court in essence ruled that classical morality is "inimical to the interests of children."

In 2010 "Catholic Care", a Catholic adoption agency in the Diocese of Leeds, was forced to stop participating in adoptions because they refused to place children with practicing homosexuals. They were the last Catholic Adoption Agency left standing in the wake of the  "Equality Act Sexual Orientation Regulations"  Eleven other Catholic agencies closed down or severed their ties with the Catholic Church. Catholic Care appealed to the High Court seeking to limit its services to heterosexual married couples. They argued there were 'particularly convincing and weighty reasons' for such "discrimination." That is now the standard for any variation. This is how tyrants work. They make unjust positions sound "just" and then enforce their will with the police power of the State.

The Charity Commission rejected their argument about the best interest of children. They made light of their appeal to a fundamental human right to religious freedom. They worded the opinion in high sounding language but revealed that the Commission has become an apologist for a regime in the United Kingdom which promotes an equivalency between active homosexual relationships and authentic marriage. They also insist that homosexual practices be given protected legal status as a fundamental human right. In other words, unnatural acts between two men or two women are protected by the law in the same way as race, creed or natural origin.

The Commission wrote, "The High Court judgement had found that respect for religious views could not be a justification for discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in this case, because of the essentially public nature of adoption services... In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, because the prohibition on such discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law, such discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances. We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate." So, Catholic adoption agencies can no longer participate in providing adoption services in England because they refuse to bow to a new Caesar. 

What happened to Eunice and Owen Johns this past week concerning their participation in foster care is ominous. What is next for Catholics and other Christians if this trend continues?  We are in the throes of a Cultural Revolution involving two competing visions of the human person, human flourishing, the true nature of marriage - the family and society founded upon it - and the definition of the common good. These two visions are in conflict. One is a throwback to ancient paganism which calls itself "progressive" when it is regressive. The other is the path to a future of true freedom.

On January 22, 2007 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor sent a letter to the government concerning the pending legislation which later passed as the "Equality Act Sexual Orientation Regulations" . Here is an excerpt:

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Dear Prime Minister and Members of the Cabinet,

"It has always been the wish of the Catholic Church in this country to work with the government for the common good of its people. We believe we do this in matters of social care, education and in many other ways. Catholic teaching urges us to do this, and we do it gladly in a spirit of cooperation. We would, however, have a serious difficulty with the proposed regulations on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services if they required our adoption agencies to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.

"The Catholic Church utterly condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse directed against people who are homosexual. Indeed the Church teaches that they must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. We, therefore, recognize many elements of recent legislation -- including much in the Northern Ireland regulations -- that takes steps to ensure that no such discrimination takes place.

"What, then, is the problem? It is that to oblige our agencies in law to consider adoption applications from homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents would require them to act against the principles of Catholic teaching. We require our agencies to recruit and approve appropriate married and single people to meet the needs of children in local authority care for whom adoption has been identified as being in their best interest.

"We place significant emphasis on marriage, as it is from the personal union of a man and a woman that new life is born and it is within the loving context of such a relationship that a child can be welcomed and nurtured. Marital love involves an essential complementarity of male and female. We recognize that some children, particularly those who have suffered abuse and neglect, may well benefit from placement with a single adoptive parent.

"However, Catholic teaching about the foundations of family life, a teaching shared not only by other Christian Churches but also other faiths, means that Catholic adoption agencies would not be able to recruit and consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents. We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the Church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service...."

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The Cardinal's letter was reasonable. But reason seems to be losing its persuasive power as tyranny is released from its moral restraints and now masquerades as tolerance. Now, it is not only a matter of squeezing the Church out of providing adoption services, it is a wholesale effort to deny Christian couples a right to be foster parents. Perhaps this will soon lead to denying Christians the right to adopt as well. This Court decision against Eunice and Owen Johns is ominous and calls for a focused response of prayer and Catholic Action.

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