UK Couples Loses Right to Foster Care Over Views on Homosexuality

A UK court has ruled against an Evangelical Christian couple, Eunice and Owen Johns, who claimed they were discriminated against by their town council. The Derby city council rejected the couple's foster care application over their insistence on teaching the children that homosexuality is morally wrong.

The Guardian reports: Johns

The couple had hoped to foster five- to 10-year-olds.

The case was the latest to be brought by conservative evangelicals, led by the Christian Legal Centre, over their supporters' right to discriminate specifically against gay people and not be bound by equality regulations. All the cases have so far been lost.

Said the court in a statement: "No one is asserting that Christians (or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims) are not 'fit and proper' persons to foster or adopt. No one is seeking to de-legitimise Christianity or any other faith or belief. On the contrary, it is fundamental to our law and our way of life that everyone is equal before the law and equal as a human being … entitled to dignity and respect. We are, however, entitled, to take judicial notice of the fact that, whereas the sharia is still understood in many places as making homosexuality a capital offence, the Church of England permits its clergy, so long as they remain celibate, to enter into civil partnerships. We live in this country in a democratic and pluralistic society, in a secular state not a theocracy."


  1. JT says

    “…the Church of England permits its clergy, so long as they remain celibate, to enter into civil partnerships.”

    Haha, what a joke. A sad joke. I wonder how many of these clergymen are celibate.

  2. Disgusted American says

    At least England is trying to do something.
    If this happend in the US,well it wouldn’t
    happen in the US. Good for England.

    Posted by: terryp | Feb 28, 2011 2:48:46 PM

    Terry – you are Correct – but make NO mistake the Right Wing wackjobs WILL TRY to USE this CASE as a “SEEEEE,TOLDYA SO…” BS line…

  3. Xtab says

    Discrimination against private belief. People are entitled to their rights regardless of what they believe, even if those views are objectionable. Frankly, it’s illiberal and authoritarian, and likely wouldn’t happen in the U.S. due to the First Amendment.

  4. Cole says

    Although I would never want a child to be taught that homosexuality is wrong this is a bit over-the-top. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to be foster parents? What if Mulims wanted to be foster parents? Could they be banned from doing so because they might raise the child to be a terrorist? Or fat parents might teach their child poor eating habits and force the child into a lifelong struggled with their weight. Everyone has different beliefs. I think the best thing to do is to EDUCATE this couples about homosexuality and their silly religious beliefs, not ban them from helping a child in need.

  5. Edith Pie-Eater says

    And that is why I love living here… the Courts are socially enlightened. Lets hope all those haters are weeded out and foster children are raised by families who teach them that everyone is born equal. Now, if only Kate and Wills can make a gay baby…

  6. Wes says

    Religion is not the barrier to fostering children, the homophobia is. They can be religious all they want without being overtly prejudiced. There are plenty of criteria for foster parenting, the government shouldn’t just hand over children to bigots willy nilly in the name of free speech. Yes, a Muslim who says they will teach children that infidels must die should be barred from being foster parents. A Muslim couple who is generally accepting of others should not be barred. Religion is not the issue, its the specific beliefs that are damaging and stigmatizing. Kind of like how they don’t hand kids over to white supremacists, regardless of how they justify their bigotry.

  7. anon says

    Normally, you can’t apply logic to foster parents that would also allow courts/politicians to enable or uphold eugenics, but courts/politicians do this all the time to their shame. So, if they can’t be stopped from raising their own kids on such grounds, what excuse is there to prevent them from being foster parents? Now we are saying that children can be removed from their parent’s custody based on the parent’s religious or political beliefs? This is normally considered completely unacceptable.

  8. Wes says

    XTAB, they have a right to their beliefs, they don’t have an inherent right to foster parenting. The government does and should screen candidates based on criteria, views that are potentially damaging to a child included.

  9. Wes says

    “The Derby city council rejected the couple’s foster care application over their INSISTENCE on TEACHING THE CHILDREN that homosexuality is morally wrong.”

    Please read that sentence again carefully everyone, noting the capitalized words.

    They expect the government to hand kids over to them while they INSIST on TEACHING said children their own, personal prejudiced views on homosexuality. They could seriously make a child’s life hell as a result.

    A child’s right to not be placed with bigots overrides and perceived right of bigots to be foster parents.

  10. Xtab says

    No, WES, that’s Andy Towle talking, not the Guardian report. The couple were asked if they would tell their children that homosexuality is a good thing, and they said they wouldn’t. They weren’t insisting on it. The people insisting on teaching children certain social values are the Derby council, not the parents.

    And yes, parents don’t have an inherent right to foster parenting, and they should meet minimum criteria, but I feel uncomfortable adding political and social beliefs to such criteria. Typically in the U.S. you need to be of age, hold down a steady job, pass a criminal background check and not do any drugs. You can be a white supremacist and provide foster care. Typically, though, white supremacists are drug abusers and can’t hold down jobs!

  11. Xtab says

    Problem is that you deny other people the right to contract for the sake of protecting a minority. And the way you do that is not by simply passing laws to protect that minority (which you should anyways), but passing laws aimed at transforming a backwards majority. In this sense, those agreeing with the foster parents having their rights taken away are the ultimate conservatives: you want a society that holds and protects certain values, not one focused mainly on protecting liberty. The only difference between you and the conservatives is that your views are “socially enlightened” — I agree with those views, I’m gay and want people to like me too, but I can’t force them.

  12. Wes says

    I’m more concerned with the kids than changing prejudiced religious people’s hearts and minds. I don’t need them to “like me”. But I don’t think white supremacists should be foster parents and I don’t think homophobes should either. People can raise their own kids however they want but if they’re looking after someone else’s, thats a different story. Some freedoms shouldn’t exist, the ‘right’ to raise other people’s children regardless of how damaging that environment might be among them.

  13. Xtab says

    “Won’t somebody please think of the children!”

    See, it’s the same argument that conservatives make about gay foster parents. It’ll be bad for the kids, it’ll corrupt them, because kids are so malleable and innocent. So we’ve got to ban stuff, and censor stuff, and we’ve got to protect the children. We can’t let Ned Flanders get his hands on our kids! It’s not because you want to force your social values on them, not at all! Gasp! How dare I say such a thing!

  14. Wes says

    Ban stuff and censor stuff? No, just not hand other people’s kids over to them. World of difference there.

    And yes, some views should be considered acceptable and others not.

    Gay parents who teach their kids that heterosexuality is evil shouldn’t be foster parents either.

    It seems like you’re belittling the very important point that yes, kids are vulnerable at such a formative age and that these kind of considerations are actually quite serious.

    It shouldn’t be “anything goes” in the name of free speech when we’re talking about real children being placed in foster care.

  15. Xtab says

    Yes, you think the state should ban foster parents from taking care of kids if those parents have views you don’t agree with or find personally offensive. I take the liberal view that the state should be neutral regarding political belief, and not privilege certain beliefs over others. You can have the last word.

  16. Wes says

    I don’t care about “conservative” or “liberal” labels, or the last word for that matter. I just think its important that there be significant considerations before placing children in foster care. You have argued here that neo-nazis should have no barrier to foster parenting. I think there needs to be a line and yes, it will always come down to subjectivity. I’m okay with that, I don’t have a strict political philosophy to be concerned with maintaining the consistency of. I just don’t support an adult’s free speech rights taking priority over the welfare of someone else’s child.

  17. GregV says

    “No, WES, that’s Andy Towle talking, not the Guardian report.”

    Okay, Xtab, let’s look at the exact words used in the Guardian article to describe the reason the couple was rejected: “..because they insisted on their right to tell young foster children that homosexuality is morally wrong.”

    Now, let’s look at Andy Towle’s paraphrase: “…over their insistence on teaching the children that homosexuality is morally wrong.”

    Without hearing from the social workers themselves, I’d take anything the Guardian publishes with a grain of salt (it could have been something much more nefarious that was said by the couple.
    But your suggestions that Andy’s paraphrase doesn’t match up with the Guardian’s is obviously baseless.
    There is no discimination against anyone’s religious belief here. What if a foster parenting applicant insisted on teaching kids that black people are the spawn of Satan or that Christians are evil and to be reviled? That, too would be damaging and could seed potential violent, hateful or self-loathing tendencies in a child. If the agency would accept those forms of problematic parenting and not this couple’s, then that would be discriminatory. Without any such evidence, this couple has no basis to claim discrimination.

    Foster parents are always screened to find homes where a child can feel safe and secure, healthy and well-cared-for.

    No one has a “right” to be entrusted with other people’s children, let alone without any regard to the well-being of those children.

  18. says

    I agree with WES on this. It’s not the prospective foster parents’ religion that makes them unfit, but their plan to inculcate discriminatory hatred in their charges.

    I think they would have trouble here in Washington State (though that might depend on what “region” they were in). There are lots of rules when becoming a foster parent and if you choose to be a foster parent, then it’s your obligation to follow those rules. Even when you don’t like them. Been there, done that.

  19. Xtab says

    I was going to lay it to rest, and I may very well be wrong about this, but going back and re-reading the article, it said the foster parents were going to take care of children between the ages of 5-10. Would moral disapproval of homosexuality even be applicable in this circumstance? These are pre-pubescent children who are most likely not aware of their sexuality.

    The lede is also confusing. The Guardian said they insisted on telling children that homosexuality was wrong, but then cites the parents as saying they wouldn’t tell children that it is acceptable. There is a difference. One is active, the other is reactive.

  20. Sargon Bighorn says

    Foster children need to be raised with support and validation. Should a child be told that being Gay is a sin, and that child is in fact Gay, harm and damage is done to the child. PLEASE don’t give children to people that raise them to hate themselves.

  21. X says

    Woohoo! Does the UK welcome American immigrants who want to work and raise families in Britain? Particularly gay ones?

    I wouldn’t want a family fostering a kid who would drive that kid to hate himself, commit risky behavior, or commit suicide — and that’s unfortunately the type of parents that evangelical Christians can turn out to be when they harbor the thoughts and lifestyle they have chosen. How ironic that the language they use to describe gays is what describes them.

  22. says

    @ XTAB: all children have sexuality but it’s low key and not well defined, but more to the point, if you’re (proto) gay and your told that only being het is acceptable, then you’re going to suffer.

  23. dizzy spins says

    What if the foster parents were Jewish and wanted to teach the children about how wonderful and important Israel is? What if they believed in holistic medicine? What if they were against abortion in all cases (even rape and incest)? Its easy to point a finger and say homophobes can’t be foster parents, but once you start screening based on values and not ability, its a very gray area.

    Besides which, for all the people patting the Brits on the back–dont forget that the Church of England is the OFFICIAL church of ENGLAND. They have a state religion. Currently, even if a church or synagoguge wants to host a same-sex civil union, they are legally NOT ALLOWED to.

    Stay in the USA, thanks.

  24. Brian Miller says

    As a libertarian, I recognize this clearly for what it is — state punishment by meddling bureaucrats for unpopular views. It’s no more justifiable than the previous bans on adoption by gay couples.

    However, I do hope that Christian conservatives take a good, hard look at this ruling and reconsider their own hate crusade. As this story clearly illustrates, the same government that can ban gay people from adopting and getting married — and punish gay people for being different — can do the same thing to Christian conservatives. It’s in their best interests to pursue an agenda of freedom for *everybody*.

  25. anon says

    I’m glad eugenics is so popular here on TR. When do we start forced the sterilizations. They did it in enlightened Sweden until the 1970s because some citizens were “too ugly” to have children. Yes, lets put the editor of Vogue in charge of people’s reproductive rights!

  26. Bryan says

    It’s always disappointing how many members of other minorities are willing to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

    And it’s disgusting how christianists pass the buck for their hateful, destructive behavior to their sky god. As Betty Bowers says, “Nothing personal, dear. God told me to hate you.”

  27. Brian Miller says

    No one has a “right” to be entrusted with other people’s children, let alone without any regard to the well-being of those children.

    But that’s not what you’re arguing. You’re arguing that it’s acceptable for the state to declare that someone is an unfit parent due to his or her religious beliefs — a position that’s objectively identical to the state’s prior (also wrong) declaration that a gay parent is defacto unfit to be a parent.

    If you’re going to screen parents based on controversial or unpopular beliefs, every single one will fail, and kids will just get to grow up in an orphanage.

  28. Hmm... Let's look at the facts and stop slapping ourselves on the back for a second! says

    “Besides which, for all the people patting the Brits on the back–dont forget that the Church of England is the OFFICIAL church of ENGLAND. They have a state religion.”

    Nominally, yes, that is true – but if you compare the UK and the US, I wonder how much influence comparatively the Christian church(es) wield over political decisions at a local, state and federal level – both Republican and some Democrats. We only have to look at the Christian/evangelical rhetoric that is used by US politicians and lapped up by their voters, not to mention the huge bankrolling of (and, thus, control of) American politicians by churches of various denominations in, I’m sad to say, not just the rabid bible belt states.

    We can make a huge deal about separation of church and state, but how it works in practice is the most important thing – and it ceased “to work” in the US a long time ago.

    It’s not for nothing that the Pope was bemoaning the increasing secularism of the UK – and long may that process continue! If UK politicians came out with all the Christian bulls**t that some US congressmen and senators do, they’d be looked at as a nutjob by the average man/woman in the UK street.

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