Christian foster couple lose 'homosexuality views' case

A Christian couple opposed to homosexuality have lost a battle over their right to become foster carers.

February 28, 2011 / BBCnews

Mr and Mrs Johns said they could not tell a child homosexuality was an acceptable lifestyle

Eunice and Owen Johns, 62 and 65, from Derby, said the city council did not want them to look after children because of their traditional views.

The pair, who are Pentecostal Christians, say they were "doomed not to be approved".

The High Court ruled that laws protecting people from sexual discrimination should take precedence.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers.

They withdrew their application after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable.

At the High Court, they asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and the law should protect their Christian values.

Moral opinions

But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation "should take precedence" over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

They said that if children were placed with carers who objected to homosexuality and same-sex relationships, "there may well be a conflict with the local authority's duty to 'safeguard and promote the welfare' of looked-after children".

They rejected suggestions that the case involved "a threat to religious liberty", adding: "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 contending for a blanket ban."

Speaking outside the court in London, Mrs Johns said: "All we wanted was to offer a loving home to a child in need. We have a good track record as foster parents.

"We have been excluded because we have moral opinions based on our faith and we feel sidelined because we are Christians with normal, mainstream, Christian views on sexual ethics.

"We are prepared to love and accept any child. All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing."

The couple, who cared for about 15 children in the 1990s, have called for a public inquiry into the matter.

Derby City Council has welcomed the court's ruling.

A spokesman said the authority "valued diversity and promoted equality" and "encouraged and supported children in a non judgmental way, regardless of their sexual orientation or preference".

He added: "The court confirmed that the local authority is properly entitled to consider a prospective foster carer's views on sexuality when considering their application to become a foster parent and in fact, failure to do so would potentially leave it in breach of its own guidance as well as the National Minimum Standards."

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, said: "Thankfully, Mr and Mrs Johns' out-dated views aren't just out of step with the majority of people in modern Britain, but those of many Christians too.

"If you wish to be involved in the delivery of a public service, you should be prepared to provide it fairly to anyone."

But the Christian Legal Centre reacted to the ruling with dismay and warned that "fostering by Christians is now in doubt".

The organisation said the judgment "sends out the clear message that orthodox Christian ethical beliefs are potentially harmful to children and that Christian parents with mainstream Christian views are not suitable to be considered as potential foster parents".


Ground-breaking decision

For those not all that familiar with the types of "teaching methods" used on a fostered/adopted child, PPL abuse archives feature quite a few violent (even fatal) cases where foster/adoptive parents, with strong fundamental faith-based convictions, literally beat, or tortured a fostered/adopted child, so a lesson could be learned. 

For one child, the fatal mistake can be related to school work, like in the case of Lydia Schatz, who was beaten with a 15 inch tubing for hours for misspelling a word during a home schooling session.

For a nine year old boy, before stealing a cookie, maybe it's best to decide which would be better:  get your thieving hand chopped-off, or get bound, tied, and gagged, like Brian Edgar did, by his Amother (who thought she was a prophet). 

For a developmentally delayed child, like Albert Smith, maybe beating him in the head with a board will get him to say his prayers correctly.

Who knows what triggers the mind of a person who cannot control his/her own actions, or cannot distinguish the difference between "discipline" (to disciple; to teach, and raise-up) and "punishment" (inflicting pain and suffering as retribution) for wrong-doing.

In any case, I am sure no one in the UK care-system wants another foster/adoptive mum like fundamentally defunct Eunice Spry, because one would have to seriously wonder what in God's name would be done, if such a care-giver learned the fostered/adopted child is <shhhhhh>  h-o-m-o-s-e-x-u-a-l.

It's not THE CHRISTIANS people/social workers need to worry about, it's the extreme freaks who get fanatical with their beliefs and "rights", and their sense of entitlement.  THEY are the people who should not be allowed to foster/adopt, because they pose a real threat to a child's future sense of safety and well-being.

Only the judge knows what he saw in this particular case, but if it means more social workers will look into the ways a care-taker will discipline a child, in private, then I'm all for limiting the privledge to parent a foster/adopted child to those who know how to discipline, properly.

confirmed preconceptions

I agree with what you say. The problem I see with religion as a basis for child rearing, teaching and discipline is that it actually has no foundation other than personal preconceptions.

Even though I am not a religious person myself, I have done my bit of bible reading and even attended a protestant secondary school for four years. It didn't convert me, but it tought me a valuable lesson, that most people pick up from the bible the things they already believed. Those that already believe in harsh discipline will find verses that support their belief. Those that already believe in turning the other cheek will just as easily find supporting verses in the bible.

Nearly every position a person can take can be justified by a particular interpretation of some part of the bible. That is both the strength and the weakness of the book. It helps build communities of people with very different views, but it just as easily lends credibility to certain destructive ideas.

As a literary work, composed over centuries, it is largely inconsistent and often imprecise in its statements, making the bible an ideal source to maintain confirmation bias.

Unlike scientific research, the bible never really challenges those that don't want to be challenged. Some scientific finding may force someone to rethink his position, while the bible always leaves an escape route via a verse that can be interpreted as supporting that position.

Research into child rearing methods has concluded long time ago that both shunning and harsh discipline have adverse effects. We may not be able to prevent all parents from using such methods, but we have an obligation to children put in care to make sure they don't become victims of horrible child rearing methods.

There is no harm in people seeking comfort, inspiration or wisdom in the bible, but the book shouldn't be treated as a source of information when a particular interpretation is evidently wrong. Unlike 200 years ago, we now have a body of evidence that confirms certain child rearing methods to work and others to be harmful. It's important that those chosen to take care of children placed out of their family, use methods that work and avoid methods that are harmful. Those that cannot abide by that simple rule, should not be allowed to become foster/adoptive parents.


Conversion/Reparative Therapy.

They are not fit to parent.

The pair, who are Pentecostal Christians, say they were "doomed not to be approved".

The High Court ruled that laws protecting people from sexual discrimination should take precedence.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers.


Oh no, their story doesn't bring up any personal issues from my corner. Not at all.

Bottom line: their beliefs are more important than actual human beings. So let the state honor that and keep actual human beings, such as kids who might turn out to be gay, out of harm's way.

And if not sexuality, then some other pretext to heap abuse on children they personally deem unfit will be used.


Formal Response(s) v. informal responses

On March 2, 2011, The Evangelical Alliance (UK) has issued a formal press statement: Response to Derby City Council Fostering Case.

It is not true that Christians are being prevented from fostering and adopting children in spite of increasing evidence that they are being marginalised in public life, says the Evangelical Alliance.

Earlier this week, both Eunice and Owen Johns and Derby City Council asked the High Court to rule on the suitability of the couple as foster parents in light of their Christian views on sexuality.

Both parties sought to persuade the High Court to back their own respective views. Claims that mainstream Christians who believe homosexual practice to be morally wrong will be unable to foster children are inaccurate. The court declared a 'no ruling' on the matter.

While the outcome is unhelpful for Christians and other religious believers with orthodox beliefs, it is unlikely that the case will carry any major landmark implications.

It is highly questionable whether British courts of law should be used as forums for debating the pros and cons of conflicting human rights created by equalities legislation. Instead, they should only be used to resolve disputed points of law based on evidence.

The Evangelical Alliance expresses doubt about the wisdom in bringing such cases to the High Court in the first place. While there is no doubt that equality laws appear increasingly controversial in the way they seem to disproportionately impact against Christians, there is a clear need for a more cautious and strategic approach when deciding to take matters to court.

Dr Don Horrocks, Head of Public Affairs at the Alliance, said: "We all need to be more clued-up in deciding if and when to fight legal battles. Of course there are occasions when defending religious liberty in the courts is entirely appropriate and if there is evidence of fundamental unfairness in the interpretation of equalities legislation then this needs to be addressed by government.

"However, it is counterproductive to provoke the courts into unnecessary and unhelpful rulings - especially when a case is weak and evidence is lacking. There may also be risks that Christians will be viewed as deliberately engineering conflicts with the courts or pleading privileged treatment."

Dr Horrocks advises Christian groups to seek constructive ways to safeguard public services as well as civil liberties by working with public authorities - unless there is no other option but to seek legal redress.

He adds: "The good news is that Christians are and continue to be actively involved in public life and contribute to the common good. Following this particular case we hope that those in authority will continue to consider the welfare of the child first in allowing vulnerable children to be raised in supportive homes."

Back in January of 2011, another concerning issue made headlines in the UK.  One council-member voiced a concern that "Conversion' therapy for homosexuality is unethical, clinically unsound, and in some cases, very damaging.

SIR – The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, of which I am chairman, believes that offering “conversion” therapy designed to alter the sexual orientation of gay men (report, January 16) is unethical.

Such therapy has been shown to be clinically unsound and, on occasion, very damaging. The UKCP considers that a “free speech” defence of such therapy is entirely specious.

The counselling professions must not be complacent. Our history in relation to homosexuality and other minority sexualities is not something to celebrate.

There are still worrying degrees of institutional and individual ignorance and prejudice to counter in our professions, and across the mental health field.

Professor Andrew Samuels
London N19

[From:  The Telegraph, January 23, 2011 ]

Those are "formal responses" related to a person's right to do something.  Then there are the informal responses, like featured in the US.

Steve, a devout Mormon, feared God would not accept him if he were gay. The couple met with their bishop who urged Steve to rid himself of his homosexuality by going through conversion therapy, a controversial program intended to eliminate homosexual feelings. Steve felt he had no choice.

"I wanted to be accepted by God," he said. "I wanted to be loved. That was everything to me. And so I saw no other route."

So every week Steve joined other Mormon men for group therapy. Most conversion therapy involves different forms of behavior modification, attempting to make people straight by having them act straight. Some programs even teach men about stereotypically "male" activities, such as talking about football and changing motor oil. Steve did not find that his experience with conversion therapy was at all therapeutic.

"I would definitely call it brainwashing," he said. "It was an exercise in humiliation."

[From:  The Toughest Call:  Conversion Therapy, September 22, 2007 ]

Faith-based conversion therapy programs for adults seem to be aplenty in both the US and UK, and with influential religious organizations like Focus on the Family committed to support the right to choose what course a family member should take to correct unwanted behaviors, it's no wonder lobby groups like Family Research Council have enough power to change the course of political movement, as it relates to "family values" and preserving "rights".

  • We support counseling and the availability of professional therapy options for unwanted homosexual attractions and behavior.
  • We do not endorse or promote any one particular religious, psychiatric or psychological approach as the "one and only" way to go about changing same-sex attractions and behaviors.
  • Just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out. Thus, individuals and their helping professionals are called to discern and pursue the most appropriate approach that best enables them to steward their sexuality in alignment with their chosen values.

    [From:  Our Position (Same-Sex Counseling) ]

  • Well, it just so happens some kids in ultra-conservative right-wing families/homes are afraid to discuss their "unwanted" behaviors/tendencies with their parents, because they fear the repercussions, (and for very good reason).

    When one takes the time to see the methods used to "convert" unwanted behaviors, (see:  6 Ways Religious Frauds Try to Make Gays and Lesbians Straight), we have to remind ourselves the actions done to instruct or correct a child, a teen or an adult will have natural consequences.

    As far as I'm concerned, any religious "right" becomes invalid and wrong when the victim of abuse and torture gets killed, or so depressed the only solution is death, through suicide.

    Pound Pup Legacy