There's been a lot of comment in the news and blogsphere in the UK about yesterday's judgement in the High Court by Lord Justice Mumby and Justice Beatson. This judgement concerned a joint application for guidance made by Derbyshire County Council and a couple applying to be respite foster carers for that authority. The couple (supported by the Christian Legal Centre) alleged discrimination by Derbyshire CC on the grounds of their Christian beliefs. I've followed the way this case has been reported with considerable interest and not a little anger.
My anger is mostly about how the situation seems to have been misrepresented by some of the media e.g. that this Christian couple has been 'banned from fostering', which they have not. No decision has been made about whether or not they will be approved. That was not for the High Court judges to decide. That is for Derbyshire County Council Fostering Panel to decide in relation to the assessment presented to them and the criteria laid out in the Fostering Standards and Regulations (2002). The Panel had deferred their decision, I suppose pending the guidance of the court about the balancing of potentially competing obligations under the law. I read the full judgement with interest. The judges seem to think that the case should never have been brought to court, were critical of the lack of evidence supplied (by both parties) and the way the case was presented. In their final paragraph they say "we have concluded that we should make no order". It's back to the local authority then.
As a former local authority social worker, with considerable experience in the fostering field, I would love to know more of the details behind this case, but those will be confidential. I'm wondering how I or my former employers might have handled this situation. I am sure there is far more to it than the single issue of the fostering applicants' beliefs and attitudes about homosexuality. There will be many registered foster carers who hold similar views, but who are able to act in non-discrimatory ways and meet the requirements of standard 7 of the National Minimum Standards for foster carers. I am concerned about an increased marginalisation of Christians in some areas, which sometimes seems to take the form of discrimination. But I don't think this amounts to persecution of Christians in the UK as some Christians seem to think. Where there is discrimination against Christians or any other faith group I think it should be challenged. I suppose that's what the Christian Legal Centre were aiming to do.
There's a lot more I could say, but not here and now. If you want to follow this up further, in my view the best comment on this by Christian thinkers is at Ekklesia.