Owen and Eunice Johns of Derby, England, had applied to their local city council to provide respite care, but the process came to a halt when a social worker discovered the apparently shocking truth: as Christians, the Johns said that they couldn’t tell a child that a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable. The High Court has upheld the decision that they be denied foster parenthood on the grounds that laws preventing discrimination against homosexuals take precedence over laws protecting the couple’s religious values.
The court defended the decision against claims that it represented a threat to religious freedom: “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.” But apparently there now can be a blanket ban against Christians who hold biblical views on homosexual behavior. In fact, it seems that the court is almost being disingenuous: if most Christians hold biblical views on homosexuality, then ipso facto there is a blanket ban against most Christians fostering or adopting.
As would be expected in any high-profile case, a number of parties have made comments on their pleasure or displeasure with the decision:
- A spokesman for the Derby city council reiterated the council’s desire to see foster parents “encourag[e] and suppor[t] children in a non judgmental way, regardless of their sexual orientation or preference.”
- The executive of a charity for homosexual causes was thankful that the Johns’s “out-dated views aren’t just out of step with the majority of people in modern Britain, but those of many Christians too.” He added, “If you wish to be involved in the delivery of a public service, you should be prepared to provide it fairly to anyone.”
- On the other side, the Christian Legal Centre worried that “fostering by Christians is now in doubt” and that the ruling “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.”
- And the Johns, meanwhile, lament, “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.”
Naturally, we understand that foster children must be protected from not only physical mistreatment, but also from other forms of mistreatment such as encouraging hostile attitudes toward others. For example, we agree that anyone advocating violence against homosexuals—on religious grounds or otherwise—would not be fit for fostering, just as anyone advocating violence in general would not be fit for fostering!
But several things worry us about the High Court’s ruling. First, there is the obvious concern about a “slippery slope” whereby many religious views may become “dangerous” to foster children. Can a foster parent tell children that we are all sinners, condemned to hell without God’s grace—or might that be “frightening” and “destructive” and impede their development as free individuals? Can a foster parent express belief in Christ’s resurrection, or is that spreading a “pseudoscientific” lie? Ultimately, what if “child welfare” continues to be re-defined such that any parent, foster or natural, cannot teach their child religious morals?
This goes along with concerns about Christian views on homosexual behavior being censored. If stating that homosexual behavior is sinful is cast as “dangerous,” then not only may Christians effectively be silenced from speaking their beliefs on that topic, but what’s to stop the government from denying Christians to teach that any behavior is wrong? For example, could parents teach their children that sex outside of marriage is wrong, or is that “offensive” and “endangering the child’s welfare”?
And how was the risk to children measured? For example, did the Johns go out of their way (in required interviews as part of their application) to say that they would castigate homosexuals in front of foster children? Or did a chance thread of conversation lead the discussion to a point where the Johns were effectively cornered into saying that, yes, if the subject of homosexuality came up with a foster child, they would say that they accepted the Bible’s teaching on the subject.
Also troubling is the fact that, as The Telegraph reports, the government suggested the Johns attend a “re-education” program.1
What is genuinely most frustrating, however, is that both the Derby city council spokesman and the executive for the homosexual-cause charity fail to distinguish being a good and loving foster parent from holding certain views. For example, the charity executive implies that the Johns couldn’t provide foster services “fairly” to children, while the council spokesman suggests they couldn’t encourage and support children. This is akin to the illogical implication that to love homosexuals one must love homosexuality, while hating homosexuality necessitates hating homosexuals. Non-Christians fail either to see how or to acknowledge that we can love homosexuals while hating homosexual behavior.
And in the end, perhaps the biggest tragedy is that it appears society as a whole is missing out on at least two qualified and badly needed foster parents (the Telegraph reports a shortage of 10,000) simply because of the increasing legal dominance of anti-biblical views.
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