Court of Appeal Says Fostering Agency Cannot Force Carers to Abide by Evangelical Sexual Code of Conduct

An evangelical fostering agency is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court to defend its right to place children only with heterosexual Christian married couples.

Ofsted downgraded the rating of Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service from “good” to “requires improvement” on the grounds that its sexual conduct policy was unlawful. 

Paragraph 10 of its code of conduct requires that carers “set a high standard in personal morality which recognises that God’s gift of sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed exclusively within Christian marriage”, and that they “abstain from all sexual sins including immodesty, the viewing of pornography, fornication, adultery, cohabitation, homosexual behaviour and wilful violation of your birth sex”.

Earlier this year, the High Court said Cornerstone had the legal right to work exclusively with Christian carers. 

It asserted nonetheless that the adoption agency could not compel carers to live by paragraph 10 of the code of conduct.

Cornerstone, supported by The Christian Institute, argued that the High Court judgment was contradictory and sought to challenge this part of the ruling.

On Friday, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s verdict both in defending Cornerstone’s right to recruit Christian carers, but also in taking exception to the requirement that they be in a heterosexual Christian marriage.

Lord Justice Peter Jackson said in the written judgment that he did not accept Cornerstone’s claim that this was “legally contradictory”.

“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,” he said.

“Each protected characteristic has a quality of its own and the consequences of discrimination upon individuals and upon society as a whole will differ according to the context.

“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.

“If Cornerstone’s argument were correct, it could take advantage of the parts of the legislation that protect it and ignore the parts that protect others.”

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(c) The Christian Today, used with permission.