UK court rules evangelistic hosting agency can’t turn away same-sex couples
The Court of Appeal for England and Wales has ruled that an evangelical foster agency cannot place foster children only in the homes of opposite-sex married couples.
Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service, also known as CornerstoneUK, is considering appealing last Friday’s ruling that the group could limit the families it works with to evangelical Christians, but could not demand that ‘they are heterosexual married couples.
The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling against Cornerstone. The Christian Institute has promised to take the case to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
“The difficulty with this logic is that it equates religious discrimination with discrimination based on sexual orientation in all circumstances when it is something that Parliament has not done,” says the decision.
“Parliament has, in the broad sense, chosen to give priority to religious faith in a private context but to give priority to sexual orientation in relation to public services – always subject to considerations of proportionality in the case individual.”
Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute, which helps represent Cornerstone, told the Christian Post by email Monday that the Court of Appeal “wrongly concluded that” Cornerstone is “unlawfully discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.”
“The courts have erroneously said that Cornerstone recruits caregivers on behalf of local authorities and therefore cannot rely on the exceptions to equality law created for religious organizations,” Calvert explained.
“These exceptions protect their ability to make distinctions based on sexual orientation without violating discrimination law. The crucial fact is that Cornerstone recruits caregivers on its own behalf, not on behalf of local authorities.
Calvert explained that it was about “the placement of children which is done on behalf of the local authorities”. Therefore, “Cornerstone is free to rely on these exceptions which are vital to protect its uniquely Christian mission.
In 2019, the government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) published a report on Cornerstone concluding that the evangelical agency was “inadequate” because of its policy of placing only children with couples. opposite sex married couples who accept the organization’s statement of faith.
According to OFTED, this policy meant that Cornerstone was not in compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998.
Cornerstone challenged the designation, arguing that the charity could benefit from exemptions under UK law and that its denial on religious grounds to place children with same-sex couples was justified.
In the ruling last Friday, the Court of Appeal said that if “Cornerstone’s argument was correct, it could take advantage of the parts of the law that protect it and ignore the parts that protect others.”
Cornerstone CEO Pam Birtle said in a statement released by the Christian Institute that although she was “disappointed” with the decision, she believes her organization “has gained more than it has lost.”
“Ofsted’s attempt to tell us that we cannot work exclusively with Christian caregivers has been rejected by the High Court and has been even more firmly rejected by today’s Court of Appeal ruling,” Birtle said.
“We are convinced that the equality law protects our ability to function in a distinctly evangelical way. For the law to do less would be a violation of human rights and a denial of the values of a liberal democracy.
In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the city of Philadelphia could not exclude a Catholic charity from its foster care program because the group would not place children in foster care. same sex couples.
“The government does not act in a neutral manner when it acts in a manner that is intolerant of religious beliefs or restricts practices because of their religious nature,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.
“Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive scrutiny and violates the first amendment. “