The High Court has ruled to permit Derby City Council preventing a Christian couple from fostering on grounds that their anti-gay beliefs make them unsuitable for that service. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has commented on the decision, saying it shows that ‘prejudices and preferences come second to the needs and rights of vulnerable children’.
The couple’s legal case was supported by a socially conservative Christian lobby group, and the couple also received support from a number of Church of England Bishops, including Lord Carey, whose intervention in another case earlier in 2010 was severely criticised by the Court of Appeal judge.
In their hard-hitting judgment, Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson are highly critical of case made on behalf of the claimant, describing the case made by Mr Paul Diamond of the Christian Legal Centre, ‘a travesty of the reality’.
BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, ‘Fostering is an important public service, giving care and support to some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the country. When we take on jobs of public service to others, particularly to vulnerable children, we need to understand that our own prejudices and preferences come second to the needs and rights of those we are helping. This judgment supports that principle and makes clear that this case has nothing to do with treating religious people unequally, or forcing anyone to go against their beliefs, or about religious discrimination as was claimed.
‘Although this judgment is welcome, it is alarming that this was yet another case whereby political Christian groups are supporting cases of alleged discrimination. In ruling on such cases, the courts have invariably found that while there is no question of the right to freedom of belief being infringed on, there are legitimate restrictions on the right to manifest those beliefs, where the manifestation maybe damaging or harmful to others, or contrary to the requirements of the service in which they are employed. Instead of accepting that there is no legitimate case for religious discrimination, the groups go on to claim instead that the whole system of law discriminates against them and that the whole of the law should shift to accommodate their prejudices. Theocratic arguments like this, advanced in the name of equality for Christians, need to be exposed for what they are.’
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state