High Court considers barring Christian foster parents
The stunning, benchmark case of a Christian couple told they may not be able to be foster parents under new laws dictating sensitivity to homosexual children is now awaiting judgment from Great Britain's High Court.
Owen and Eunice Johns of Derby, England, had cared for more than a dozen foster children through 1993, but when in 2007 they wished to resume foster care, they were required to reapply with their city council.
In the interval, however, Great Britain passed the Sexual Orientation Regulations and the Equality Act, which led a social worker to question whether a Christian couple would be "fit" to care for a potentially homosexual child.
Mrs. Johns told London's Daily Mail, "The council said, 'Do you know, you would have to tell them that it's OK to be homosexual?'"
"But I said I couldn't do that," Johns continued, "because my Christian beliefs won't let me. Morally, I couldn't do that. Spiritually I couldn't do that."
The Johns appealed to the courts, hoping it would force their council to clarify whether Christians with traditional views on sexual ethics would be forbidden from adopting foster children.
The groundbreaking legal collision of homosexual "rights" and the freedom of religion has generated extensive public attention, including an open letter from several British clergy and signed by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton:
"The High Court is to be asked to rule on whether Christians are 'fit people' to adopt or foster children – or whether they will be excluded, regardless of the needs of children, from doing so because of the requirements of homosexual rights," the clergy write. "This 'equality,' however, privileges homosexual rights over those of others."
"There is a 'clash of rights,' which the court must settle," the clergy continue. "If the court believes that those with traditional Christian views on homosexuality can be discriminated against, the state has taken a position on a moral question, namely that such religious belief is problematic."
They conclude, "We trust and pray that common sense and justice will be done."
The Christian Legal Centre, which campaigns for religious freedoms, is representing the Johns.
"The case will decide whether the Johns will be able to foster without compromising their beliefs," the CLC said in a statement. "The implications are huge. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of Christian foster carers and adoptive parents hangs in the balance."
Andrea Minichiello-Williams, director of the CLC further told the Mail, "That the court even needs to consider this is a remarkable reversal in the concept of the public good and the traditional definition of sexual morality."
Ben Summerskill, of the lesbian, "gay" and bisexual rights charity Stonewall, however, told the newspaper the interests of a child should become before the "prejudices of a parent":
"Many Christian parents of gay children will be shocked at Mr. and Mrs. Johns’s views, which are more redolent of the 19th century than the 21st," Summerskill said.
Great Britain's High Court, which is similar to a federal district court in the U.S., heard testimony earlier this month and is expected to take up to six weeks to hand down its decision.
In the hearings, the Derby City Council was represented by Jeremy Weston, who told the court that the Johns' application had technically never been decided and the council was also waiting for judicial review of the case.
"The city council needs clarity on this matter," he said. "It defends diversity and equality and has treated the Johns as it would have treated anyone else. It would be inappropriate for the council to approve foster carers who cannot meet minimum standards."
Weston also said, however, "It would be difficult and impractical to match children with Mr. and Mrs. Johns if they feel that strongly."
Weston added that the Johns' application could also be ultimately denied should the Johns be found "unsuitable" for other reasons, including "if Mrs. Johns' attendance at church twice on a Sunday would limit available time [to care for children]."