UK Court of Appeal says Christian foster agency can refuse placements with same-sex couples

by Karen Faulkner, Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The Court of Appeal has ruled that an evangelical foster agency that receives -payer funding is allowed to only place children with carers who identify as , but it cannot insist that those carers be heterosexual, the Christian Post (CP) reports. Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service, also known as CornerstoneUK, said it will appeal Friday’s ruling to the UK’s .

The case was launched after the government’s Office for Standards in , Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) reported that Cornerstone was providing an “inadequate” service because it only placed children with opposite-sex married couples who agree to the organization’s statement of , CP said. Accordingly, OFSTED determined that Cornerstone was acting in violation of the Equality Act of 2010 and the Act of 1998.

Upholding a lower court ruling, the first acknowledged Cornerstone’s argument: “Cornerstone argues that it is contradictory that it is entitled to limit its pool of carers to those of evangelical Christian faith but prevented from requiring such carers to subscribe to an important tenet of that faith, namely the prohibition against sexual conduct outside the bonds of a Christian marriage,” the ruling read. “The argument has a certain logic: “We are entitled to discriminate against persons who are not evangelical Christians”, therefore “Because is unacceptable to evangelical Christianity we are entitled to discriminate against homosexuals.’”

However, the Court continued: “ The difficulty with this logic is that it equates religious discrimination with sexual orientation discrimination in all circumstances when that is something that Parliament has not done. Parliament has, speaking broadly, chosen to give priority to religious faith in a private context but to give priority to sexual orientation where public services are concerned – always subject to considerations of proportionality in the individual case.”

Responding to the ruling, Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute, an organization that is representing Cornerstone, said: “The Courts incorrectly stated that Cornerstone recruits carers on behalf of local authorities and therefore cannot rely on equality law exceptions created for religious organizations,” Calvert told CP. “These exceptions protect their ability to make distinctions on grounds of sexual orientation without falling foul of discrimination law. The crucial fact is that Cornerstone recruits carers on its own behalf, not on behalf of local authorities…Cornerstone is free to rely on these exceptions which are vital to protecting its distinctively Christian mission.”

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