An appeals court in the United Kingdom has ruled that while an evangelical foster agency may limit the parents they place children with to self-identifying Christians, they may not decline to place children with same-sex couples.
The Court of Appeals in England and Wales upheld a lower court ruling against the foster agency, Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service, which is also known as CornerstoneUK, as The Christian Post reports.
The three-justice panel argued that in the respect that the agency could be considered to be performing a public service, it had no right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
“The difficulty with this logic is that it equates religious discrimination with sexual orientation discrimination in all circumstances when that is something that Parliament has not done,” the panel ruled.
“Parliament has, speaking broadly, chosen to give priority to religious faith in a private context but to give priority to sexual orientation where public services are concerned – always subject to considerations of proportionality in the individual case.”
However, the Christian Institute, which is helping to represent the foster agency and plans to appeal to the nation’s supreme court, says that the justices were incorrect about the extent to which Cornerstone operates in the public sphere.
A representative of the organization told CP in an email last week that the appeals panel’s determination that Cornerstone was “unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation” was “wrongly concluded.”
“The Courts incorrectly stated that Cornerstone recruits carers on behalf of local authorities and therefore cannot rely on equality law exceptions created for religious organisations,” the Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert explained.
“These exceptions protect their ability to make distinctions on grounds of sexual orientation without falling foul of discrimination law. The crucial fact is that Cornerstone recruits carers on its own behalf, not on behalf of local authorities.”
He explained that as children are placed in homes on behalf of local authorities, Cornerstone ought to be free to rely on full protections for their religious liberty.
Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court unanimously sided with a Catholic Foster Agency that had been told by the city of Philadelphia that they would no longer receive referrals if they did not agree to place children in the care of same-sex couples.
“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion at the time.
“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”
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