A High Court judge has told England’s only evangelical Christian fostering agency that they ‘must’ allow homosexuals to sign up as foster carers.
According to BBC News, Cornerstone Adoption and Fostering Service launched a High Court challenge against Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) after inspectors from the government body deemed its policies discriminatory and lowered its rating.
The Christian agency was criticised for only placing children with married heterosexual foster carers, a policy Justice Julian Knowles said was unlawful.
“The law requires Cornerstone to accept gay men and lesbian women as potential foster carers,” the judge explained.
“It hardly needs to be said, but I categorically reject any suggestion that gay men and lesbians cannot make wonderfully loving foster and adoptive parents whether they are single or in same-sex partnerships.”
The judge went on to say, the agency “must change its recruitment policy” to allow homosexuals to become “prospective foster parents and it cannot lawfully refuse to do so.”
While the judge said any policy requiring “applicants to refrain from homosexual conduct” was unlawful, he acknowledged that, contrary to Ofsted’s allegations, the agency was legally permitted to recruit based on religious ethos.
The Christian Institute reports:
“In his judgement today, Mr Justice Julian Knowles ruled that Ofsted was wrong to try and force Cornerstone to place children with non-evangelical Christian foster carers.
The judgement states that ‘Cornerstone is permitted to exclusively recruit evangelical Christian carers’ because of the exemption in the Equality Act 2010 for religious organisations.
Contrary to Ofsted’s allegation, it also states that requiring carer applications to be evangelical ‘does not violate human rights law.”
Although the Equality Acts 2010 permits religious charities to restrict “the provisions of benefits” to those who share their faith and beliefs, the judge ruled that the exception do not allow the agency to impose restrictions on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Cornerstone’s Chairwoman Sheila Bamber said: “The judgement justifies our decision to pursue this legal action. Our right to support Christian families in providing the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and young people has been upheld.
“But I’m saddened that the fundamental place of biblically-based Christian marriage in our beliefs has not been recognised,” she said. “We will carefully and prayerfully consider how to continue our vocation and work to create forever families.”
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs for the Christian Institute said the judge was mistaken in thinking Cornerstone was not covered by the equality law exception allowing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
“Cornerstone is a private organisation and places children with those within its existing pool of carers. It does not recruit carers on behalf of local authorities,” Calvert said.
“This part of the judgement suggests the court failed to recognise that Christian belief informs and shapes every area of life — including sexual ethics and behaviour.”
The agency said it would consider appealing the “sexual conduct ruling.”