A Christian couple from Derby have been refused permission to look after any more children after a city council discovered their views on homosexuality.
Pentecostal Christians, Eunice and Owen Johns, 62 and 65, who have many years of experience as foster carers, had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers - a role which usually involves caring for children, who often have disabilities, on a short term basis, when parents need a break. They withdrew their application after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child that they approved of a homosexual lifestyle.
At the High Court, they asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers. But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation should take precedence over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.
They stated that if children were placed with carers who objected to homosexuality and same-sex relationships, "there may well be a conflict with the local authority's duty to 'safeguard and promote the welfare' of looked-after children".
The court said that while there was a right not to face discrimination on the basis of either religion or sexual orientation, equality of sexual orientation took precedence.
Mrs Johns said: "All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing.”
Gay rights campaigners, and Derby City Council have welcomed the decision.
The Christian Legal Centre has reacted to the ruling with dismay and warned that warned that "fostering by Christians is now in doubt".
They said 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".
But the court stressed: "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."
However, the message clearly is, that courts will interpret the law in cases like the Johns' according to secular and not religious values.
One commentator told the BBC: "This is PC gone completely mad. Mr and Mrs Johns said: '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.' I am a gay man and I would not tell a 'small child' that homosexuality is a 'good thing' . For a teenager unsure of sexual orientation it could be up for discussion but this decision is madness!"
Another said: "This is so unnecessary. All the couple need to have said in the unlikely event this ever arose was to say to the child they should talk such an important thing through with his or her parents and express no view. I am a committed Christian with a gay son I love very much and fully accept. My wife and I are, by the way, respite carers!"
The Johns are now calling for a public inquiry on the issue.
Most Catholic adoption societies have stopped their work now, after the government ruled that they had to allow gay couples to adopt.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: "On the face of it, this case seems to raise some serious issues of principle. However, there is some confusion about the precise implications of the judgement given the specific facts, and in particular recognising that the court has not made any order regarding the future decision of the local council. We will need to study the judgement carefully before commenting further."
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO COMMENT ON THIS STORY PLEASE CLICK ON THE 'COMMENT' ABOVE. PUBLICATION IS AT THE DISCRETION OF THE EDITOR.
Source: Derby City Council/BBC