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Fostering and religious belief

2 March 2011

National media interest has focused on Eunice and Owen Johns, a couple of Christian faith with 20 years for foster carer experience behind them. When Derby City Council told them that it would have difficulty approving their application to become approved foster carers because of their faith-based belief that homosexuality is unacceptable, they sued for discrimination on religious grounds. On Monday the Court of Appeal ruled against them.

The technical legal justifications of the judges to support this decision hold water, and organisations such as Stonewall have applauded the ruling saying that there should be no place in fostering for people who hold such views. But mainstream religions such as Roman Catholicism and Islam disapprove of homosexuality, and yet it would be outrageous for anyone to claim that all observing Catholics and Muslims should be excluded from fostering. Indeed the shortage of foster carers is often most acute within minority groups. Usually authorities operate a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In truth this is a fudge, but is there a better way?

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