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"a travesty of reality"
February 28, 2011 2:48 PM   Subscribe

UK respite and foster parents may no longer be homophobic, even when it is due to religious belief. An English Christian couple acting as foster parents have been banned from further placements due to their statement that they could not tell children that homosexual relationships were of equal value, with judges stating that their claims that adoption should still be allowed as a "a travesty of reality". Reaction from the UK religious right (such as it is) is venomous.

Whilst the central finding in the judgement is that secular values of human rights must outweigh religious beliefs in public service delivery, another interesting part of the judgment was the rejection of religious influence on the law in general:

"38: Although historically this country is part of the Christian west, and although it has an established church which is Christian, there have been enormous changes in the social and religious life of our country over the last century. Our society is now pluralistic and largely secular. But one aspect of its pluralism is that we also now live in a multi-cultural community of many faiths. One of the paradoxes of our lives is that we live in a society which has at one and the same time become both increasingly secular but also increasingly diverse in religious affiliation.

39: We sit as secular judges serving a multi-cultural community of many faiths. We are sworn (we quote the judicial oath) to “do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.” But the laws and usages of the realm do not include Christianity, in whatever form. The aphorism that ‘Christianity is part of the common law of England’ is mere rhetoric; at least since the decision of the House of Lords in Bowman v Secular Society Limited [1917] AC 406 it has been impossible to contend that it is law."
posted by jaduncan (59 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, how soon until the anabaptists take over everything?
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on February 28, 2011


Good for the UK.

"Travesty of reality" is a great way to describe bigoted views.

(Travesty of Reality would also be a good band name.)
posted by kmz at 2:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


They weren't exactly banned AFAICT - a social worker rightly expressed concerns about their idiotic views and they sought a legal opinion. The judgement found, as you would, that if they want the state in loco parentis to place children in their care they have to comply with civilised standards that will prevent them traumatising a gay child.
posted by Abiezer at 2:55 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love this phrase "unwilling to promote a homosexual lifestyle to a child." Even when considered charitably it's like, "hey kid, read these pamphlets. Also I made a short presentation about why you should consider going gay."
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:56 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Man, I must be a godless heathen, because anytime anyone does anything that ensures all people are equal and that antagonizes the Christian right, it makes me smile. What kind of monster takes joy from the defeat of others?
posted by Keith Talent at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


They weren't exactly banned AFAICT - a social worker rightly expressed concerns about their idiotic views and they sought a legal opinion. The judgement found, as you would, that if they want the state in loco parentis to place children in their care they have to comply with civilised standards that will prevent them traumatising a gay child.

This is true...however it's all but explicit because the council may continue to reject them on this basis. People willing to express homophobic views may be prevented from providing care, and these people seem extremely unlikely to change their views.

Like you (although I didn't want to editorialise in the posting) I'm hugely in favour of this; I don't think that people involved in service delivery should be permitted to discriminate against people based on their sexuality or beliefs. The question in this case that interested me was the clash of rights, and the resolution in favour of non-discrimination of oppressed groups and more muscular liberalism expressed by both the Equality Act itself and the related judgments.

TL;DR: Hurrah!
posted by jaduncan at 3:03 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Their views were denounced by Ben Summerskill, of the homosexual pressure group Stonewall, as "old-fashioned".
How marvellously toothless of you, Ben. Our boy at Stonewall, sadly, is too busy sucking up to the establishment to call a spade a spade.
The case is likely to be seen as a landmark decision, as senior judges ruled so decisively against any idea that attitudes might be justified purely because they were Christian in origin.
Fuck yes to this.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, I must be a godless heathen, because anytime anyone does anything that ensures all people are equal and that antagonizes the Christian right, it makes me smile. What kind of monster takes joy from the defeat of others?

I'd like to go on record as saying at least one non-godless, non-heathen feels exactly the same way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:08 PM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sub-head on the "venomous" link is "Why has it been left to judges to decide whose rights trump those of others?"

Because that's their job.

Truly, the stupidity of the right-wing British hack knows no bounds.
posted by athenian at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


Fair points jaduncan, that is an interesting aspect to the case. I was hoping to emphasise that it was the couple who sought the judgement (backed up by one of the litigious right-wing Christian organisations) rather than PC-gorn-mad social workers pro-actively stripping them of their God-given right to foist their odd views on kids.
posted by Abiezer at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


From the Guardian link:
The CLC's lawyer, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said: "How can judges get away with this? The law has been increasingly interpreted by judges in a way which favours homosexual rights over freedom of conscience. Britain is now leading Europe in intolerance to religious belief."
Yes, heaven forbid your rights as godfearing Christians to burn witches, ...err... crucify Jews, ...no, that's not it... force conversions on the local savages what was it again? torture non-believers, no wait, I know: preach homophobia and damaging lies to children be infringed on in any way.
posted by zarq at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2011 [25 favorites]


Result.

Yeah, you get to be a bigoted religious fuck. We allow that. No, you do not get to pollute kids with your bigoted religious fuckery if you are a bigoted religious fuck. We do not allow that.

Militant atheist approves.
posted by Decani at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


But the laws and usages of the realm do not include Christianity, in whatever form.

This is a rather fine distinction isn't it? Blasphemy is still a common law offense in Northern Ireland according to Wikipedia (citing the Hansard debate on repealing the law) That requires some sort of reliance on Christianity in the "laws and usages of the realm" doesn't it?

Not to mention that whole established church thing... are the actions of the crown e.g. in nominating bishops not part of the laws and usages of the realm?
posted by Jahaza at 3:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a rather fine distinction isn't it? Blasphemy is still a common law offense in Northern Ireland

Britain has three different legal systems - one that covers England and Wales, one that covers Northern Ireland and one for Scotland. This ruling would presumably be referring solely to England and Wales.
posted by dng at 3:19 PM on February 28, 2011


So does "realm" refer to just England? And that doesn't affect the second example. The Crown nominates the countries bishops? Are those nominations made without reference to laws and usages?

What about the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860? When someone is prosecuted for disrupting a sacrament celebrated by a clergyman in Holy Orders, doesn't that incorporate some reliance on Christianity (to define what constitutes Holy Orders, Sacrament, Clergyman, etc.)?
posted by Jahaza at 3:25 PM on February 28, 2011


No, you do not get to pollute kids with your bigoted religious fuckery if you are a bigoted religious fuck.

Moreover, it's sort of saying we can't (and wouldn't) stop you from raising little evangelists or at best, reasonable people who have to go through the struggle of seeing through their parents' idiot views when they're old enough, but we damn well won't actively hand you kids to screw up. Which I couldn't endorse more.

I think we'll see (and are already seeing from the couple and their lawyer) a lot of attempts to make this a Christian-rights-versus-gay-rights thing, when it self-evidently isn't. There are an absolute ton of Christians in the UK who don't share this poisonous thinking and consequently are allowed to foster kids; ergo it can't really be called a Christian belief and the couple are, quite rightly, being discriminated against for the content of their specific beliefs with no ability to hide behind their religion.
It's a near-unique circumstance, too, and I predict a lot of 'special rights' and so on from the tabloid shiteaters because there aren't any parallels - whether or not obviously racist parents would be allowed to foster at all, I can't imagine a situation where they'd end up with a child belonging to a racial group they were bigoted toward, but where the kid's genetics weren't apparent until they hit puberty or whenever.
posted by emmtee at 3:26 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, look at this gem in the Telegraph article:

Furthermore, since the children would be aged under 10, matters of sexuality are hardly relevant – or is it being suggested that they should be?

First... the author obviously has never had kids, or raised them within 100 yards of a television.
Second... this isn't NeverNeverLand. These kids will grow up, and they will hit puberty
Third... If matters of sexuality are hardly relevant for children under 10, What the fuck is this shit?!
Lastly... You're a horse's ass. Case in point, the following quotes:

Equality laws are supposed to uphold the rights to religious belief. Yet the High Court 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. Why has it been left to judges to decide whose rights trump those of others?


They aren't discriminating on religious grounds. They aren't asking "Are you a Christian?" Trust me, there's plenty of Christians out there who have this crazy belief that God loves and accepts all of his creations, and they won't tell a kid "Don't get all horny at the thought of someone who is also a boy/girl, or you'll Satan will fuck you in the ass with a hot pitchfork." They can adopt 50 kids. These parents took an interpretation of the Bible and when they were asked about it, they gave the wrong answer. Simple as that. On your reasoning, we should be ok with Satan worshipers who fuck kids with pitchforks on Thursdays as a religious ritual.

How's that strawman taste now, pal? Also...


Perhaps there is a historical irony here, because we are witnessing a modern, secular Inquisition – a determined effort to force everyone to accept a new set of orthodoxies or face damnation as social heretics if they refuse.


Take a long look at that sentence, dipshit, and ask yourself where the terminology came from. Trust me, this inquisition is simply taking away the privilege of raising kids that aren't theirs. Do not equate it to people who got the rack. K?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:26 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


So does "realm" refer to just England? And that doesn't affect the second example. The Crown nominates the countries bishops? Are those nominations made without reference to laws and usages?

What about the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860? When someone is prosecuted for disrupting a sacrament celebrated by a clergyman in Holy Orders, doesn't that incorporate some reliance on Christianity (to define what constitutes Holy Orders, Sacrament, Clergyman, etc.)?


These would be areas of black letter law, and the expression of the will of the legislature. As such, they are part of the will of Parliament rather than the inclusion of Christianity. The claim being made by the judges is that legal claims must be based on the law, rather than allowing Christian (or indeed other religious) beliefs to have some kind of force based on the fact that they are religious.
posted by jaduncan at 3:29 PM on February 28, 2011


Legal claims must be based on the law? Crazy!
posted by rtha at 3:45 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Legal claims must be based on the law? Crazy!

Heh. Indeed.
posted by jaduncan at 3:49 PM on February 28, 2011


It's nice to be reminded occasionally that there are still some intelligent, rational thinkers remaining in positions of power in this world. They are sadly all too few and far between.
posted by londonmark at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Good.
posted by kafziel at 4:13 PM on February 28, 2011


"Foster parents defeated by the new Inquisition" (Telegraph headline)

Is this kind of religious sentiment new in England? I don't remember seeing anything like that when I worked there briefly in 1996. What changed, if anything?
posted by Triplanetary at 4:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a good thing, but there's an emphasis on Christian Homophobia which, although it exists in the UK, isn't as pervasive as newspapers would have you believe. It makes me wonder if this law passed more easily because of worries about muslim homophobia, and I wonder what this kind of law means to Muslims wanting to adopt.

Of course the whole "Muslims hate gays" narrative can easily fall into racism and accusations of racism & even writing this comment feels like there are two extremely liberal versions of me shouting at the other.
posted by seanyboy at 4:24 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Coming in to recommend Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, book and television adaptation.

I imagine that gay youth represent a larger than chance proportion of individuals in need of foster parents so this is especially significant.
posted by Morrigan at 4:35 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The CLC's lawyer, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said: "How can judges get away with this? The law has been increasingly interpreted by judges in a way which favours homosexual rights over freedom of conscience. Britain is now leading Europe in intolerance to religious belief."

This kind of attitude breeds rank complacency. France doesn't even have a state religion. Britain has a lot of ground to make up.
posted by DNye at 4:45 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Decani: Yeah, you get to be a bigoted religious fuck. We allow that. No, you do not get to pollute kids with your bigoted religious fuckery if you are a bigoted religious fuck. We do not allow that.

Correction. We do allow that. We simply don't allow you to do it when acting on behalf of the state as a foster carer being remunerated with public funds. You can, however, do it with your own children.

Militant atheist approves

I approve of this ruling and I am neither an atheist nor militant. It is possible to frame this judgement not as a giant "fuck you" to religion but as a win for tolerance.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:22 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am curious, though, about the law as it applies: what if, in theory, you believe such a thing because you subscribe to a religion, but agree to never say it in practice and don't feel strongly about it? We are assuming they were considered for adoption of a young child, but in fact many people are only approved for adoption of older or nearly adult children - they might be asked to adopt an 18yo who might be able give adult consent that he or she agreed with their beliefs, or they might only be approved to adopt an extremely disabled child with profound learning difficulties, who can't ever understand their bigotry, or one with terminal illness. I'm always worried about the loss of potential adoptive parents for the least desirable children, admitting reality they are: everyone wants a baby, nobody wants an unruly teenager.

Also, i find it curious, because you have to agree to raise the child in it's birth parents' beliefs if requested, even if they aren't yours. I don't know any non-homophobic religions. (The kind of Tibetan Buddhism the Dalai Lama reinvented specially for the West doesn't count.) I had an ex-fundamentalist muslim friend who claimed she stopped when she realised all religions were invented to oppress women. She might have included gay men too.
posted by maiamaia at 5:46 PM on February 28, 2011


Meaning, if they request, you have to raise it christian/muslim/whatever, which includes equal exposure to homophobic views, if done correctly, as if they were the adopters' own.
posted by maiamaia at 5:47 PM on February 28, 2011


maiamaia: " I don't know any non-homophobic religions."

There are a number of religious Jewish sects which are not homophobic, including some of Conservative/Masorti Judaism (not all), and most if not all of Reform Judaism, including the Humanists and Reconstructionists. These movements ingrain tolerance and acceptance in their followers of gays, lesbians and those who are transgender. Their rabbis will usually marry two men or women.

Reform Judaism is a relatively new phenomenon, being less than 200 years old. Conservativism is slightly younger. They are breakaways from what is now known as Orthodox Judaism, and now vastly outnumber the followers of the traditional ways.

I believe Wicca is also not homophobic in any way.

Religious practice and observance varies greatly. So do the teachings of various religious groups.
posted by zarq at 6:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


We are assuming they were considered for adoption of a young child, but in fact many people are only approved for adoption of older or nearly adult children

I think it was stated that the Johns were applying to provide respite foster care for children aged between five and ten ("The couple had hoped to foster five- to 10-year-olds." - third link in FPP) - the young age of any potential charges being one source of backlash fury as the claim was made that children that age will not have any sexuality/sexual inclinations. The progress of the case does seem to imply that if they had agreed in conversation with the social worker in the early stages to refrain from making moral judgements about sexuality they may well have been considered suitable as foster parents.
posted by Abiezer at 6:16 PM on February 28, 2011


Ironic this (apparently) only occurred because and activist lawyer (part of an activist legal organization) wanted to codify bigotry into law.

The bigots can still adopt, can't they?
posted by el io at 6:25 PM on February 28, 2011


zarq : I believe Wicca is also not homophobic in any way.

An odd point, and one that always bothered me.

Which of the following would you expect to express the most homophobia:

1) A religion where a bunch of guys hang out together traveling the countryside, holding raves and generally shunning women, and whose largest modern incarnation claims its right of succession from the single most misogynistic member of the original troupe; or...
2) A nature based religion centered around the waxing and waning of influence of a male and female principle on the fertility of the seasons, with symbolism such as the wand and chalice, or the black candle in the pink stone with a hole in it?

More on topic - Good for the nanny state! If they insist on interfering in our lives, at least they finally got one right.
posted by pla at 6:27 PM on February 28, 2011


DarlingBri wrote: It is possible to frame this judgement not as a giant "fuck you" to religion but as a win for tolerance.

I'd be more sanguine about this if I thought that the test would be applied to all potential foster parents, and not just the ones a social worker would like to exclude. Furthermore, the test effectively means that many very good potential foster parents would be excluded even when they would be the most culturally-appropriate choice. I'd probably think differently if the potential foster parents were going around lecturing people about their sins, but there's no indication the Jones' are like that.

Here's a thought experiment. The parents of Little Johnny (or Moshe or Ahmed or whatever) belongs to The Brotherhood (or Hachaverim or Al Ikhwan or whatever), a somewhat insular religious community. People in this community have their own festival days, schools, and a traditional cuisine. Sadly, the parents are splitting up and neither can look after him. Every potential foster parent or respite carer, when asked, says "Oh, of course homosexuality is wrong." There is no indication that Johnny/Moshe/Ahmed has any interest in the subject. Question: do you place Johnny/Moshe/Ahmed with someone in his own community, or do you find someone elsewhere?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:37 PM on February 28, 2011


Joe in Australia : Question: do you place Johnny/Moshe/Ahmed with someone in his own community, or do you find someone elsewhere?

Answer: You don't even try to find the least whackjob member of his original community, and you pray to Darwin that that particular brand of crazy only gets passed through memes rather than genes.
posted by pla at 6:52 PM on February 28, 2011


Joe in Australia - I'd be surprised if there was any serious intent to exclude the Johns from the outset (quite the reverse as I understand it - they're crying out for BME foster families). The questions may have changed since they were last fosterers as attitudes to sexuality have matured, and so that will have come up in the interviews where perhaps it didn't before is all, would be my guess.
As to your thought experiment, seems like this judgement answers that fairly clearly - basic rights to a non-prejudicial upbringing trump other considerations, even if AFAIK it is still preferred to place a child in a culturally appropriate environment all else being equal.
posted by Abiezer at 7:26 PM on February 28, 2011


Pla: I can see your point in the abstract, but you're dealing with small, frightened children here. Why traumatise them further over a point of principle that's not even likely to arise? Furthermore, if you were really serious about teaching Right Thought you'd take kids away from their original parents, too.

Abiezer: after reading the reports more fully I'm a bit confused - the Jones' brought a case against the council, arguing that they thought they would be refused the opportunity to be foster parents. I didn't know you could bring cases without an actual matter. But what was the council's position? Had they already made a decision, or were they arguing that if they were to make a decision then they would be entitled to take into account the possibility that the Jones' beliefs ("any sexual union outside a marriage between a man and a woman is morally reprehensible") may result in discrimination? It's all so hypothetical.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:59 PM on February 28, 2011


maiamaia: I don't know any non-homophobic religions.

That's one of the oddest things I've read in the entire history of my hurf-durf-religion reading on MeFi. Do you think only atheists fight for social justice?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:05 PM on February 28, 2011


That's one of the oddest things I've read in the entire history of my hurf-durf-religion reading on MeFi. Do you think only atheists fight for social justice?

"I don't know any non-homophobic religions." != "I don't know any non-homophobic religious."
posted by mahershalal at 12:07 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not concern-troll on behalf of the travesty of excluding hypothetical homophobic-yet-otherwise-virtuous adoptive parents or hypothetical 18-year-old adoptees.
posted by klangklangston at 12:15 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not concern-troll on behalf of the travesty of excluding hypothetical homophobic-yet-otherwise-virtuous adoptive parents or hypothetical 18-year-old adoptees.

If this is a reply to me, I don't think you understand what I meant.

I'm just saying that the statement "I don't know any non-homophobic religions" is not incompatible with the idea that non-homophobic religious exist. There's one in this very thread for instance. It has nothing to do with "hypothetical homophobic [...] parents".

And please don't use the word troll just because you disagree with someone.
posted by mahershalal at 12:48 AM on March 1, 2011


I think Klangklangston means me. And I'm not concern-trolling: for all I know the Jones' are in fact his "homophobic-yet-otherwise-virtuous adoptive parents". Except they're foster parents, not adoptive ones. They've fostered kids in the past and there is every reason to believe that they were selected for this case because they are otherwise virtuous. There's no reason to think their homophobia would ever be an actual issue.

If there were an infinite number of good foster parents I'd say sure, let's exclude people on the basis of hypothetical questions asked at the discretion of a social worker. But you know, I don't think there are. I think there's a limited number, and I think that eliminating all Pentecostal Christians (and many Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, and whoever) will not only reduce an already limited number of potential foster parents, but it will make it harder to find places in which some children will feel at home.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:53 AM on March 1, 2011


Pla: I can see your point in the abstract, but you're dealing with small, frightened children here. Why traumatise them further over a point of principle that's not even likely to arise? Furthermore, if you were really serious about teaching Right Thought you'd take kids away from their original parents, too.

Because there's a selection process, and councils are entitled to consider homophobia (or indeed racism, sexism, any other negative prejudice and family circumstances) as part of the overall picture. Family law is very flexible on many of these matters, and always considers the welfare of the child as the highest priority.

Abiezer: after reading the reports more fully I'm a bit confused - the Jones' brought a case against the council, arguing that they thought they would be refused the opportunity to be foster parents. I didn't know you could bring cases without an actual matter. But what was the council's position? Had they already made a decision, or were they arguing that if they were to make a decision then they would be entitled to take into account the possibility that the Jones' beliefs ("any sexual union outside a marriage between a man and a woman is morally reprehensible") may result in discrimination? It's all so hypothetical.

The latter. They were asking for a judicial finding on the state of the law, and a review of their circumstances. This is not such an unusual thing in English law, as parties often wish to know what the law actually is before running the risk of infringing it.
posted by jaduncan at 1:56 AM on March 1, 2011


If there were an infinite number of good foster parents I'd say sure, let's exclude people on the basis of hypothetical questions asked at the discretion of a social worker. But you know, I don't think there are. I think there's a limited number, and I think that eliminating all Pentecostal Christians (and many Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, and whoever) will not only reduce an already limited number of potential foster parents, but it will make it harder to find places in which some children will feel at home.

Again, this is part of the broader picture. The council is entitled to consider prejudice, but it is not an absolute barrier to a placement. It merely empowers the social workers to make their own choice, and would probably require them to justify a placement with a prejudiced parent.
posted by jaduncan at 2:01 AM on March 1, 2011


counterpoint to my earlier link to an article on muslim homophobia. Not entirely sure what the truth of it is.
posted by seanyboy at 3:16 AM on March 1, 2011


Seanyboy, most people compartmentalise their mental categories of "things which are wrong" into "things I would do something about" and "things I wouldn't do anything about". I have a friend who once - before I really knew him - leaped into a fight to defend me from some bullies who were playing keep-away with my stuff. The same person is a libertarian who thinks taxes are armed robbery. None the less, I cannot imagine him ever cheating on his taxes, let alone assaulting a tax agent. They're in different mental compartments, you see.

I suspect it's the same with London Muslims and homophobia. Is theft wrong? Absolutely. Would you stop someone snatching a woman's purse? Absolutely. Is homosexuality wrong? Absolutely. What would you do if you saw two men kissing each other? Er... look away?

Of course, when you get someone charismatic who forces his followers to stop being hypocrites you get religious police, riots, and assaults. So I don't think Johann Hari's surveys ought to be ignored. I just think that you really can have a sort of modus vivendi even when your research is telling you that there ought to be total war.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 AM on March 1, 2011


There is a long way to go, Its not just the christians.

Something i wondered about this (and the B&B story): could a "faith" school be prosectuted for discrimination for not accepting someone of their religion? Anyone know?
posted by marienbad at 5:14 AM on March 1, 2011


Except they're foster parents, not adoptive ones.

But this means that they are agents of the State, temporarily housing children under the authority of the State and in the name of the State. This imposes some requirements for neutral action on State actors that would not exist for private actors.

Take a government-run orphanage or temporary child housing facility. Should it be permissible for its government-employee administrator to tell the client children that homosexuality is wrong? The mere fact that the government subcontracts child care out to otherwise private families doesn't change this. In their raising of their own children, they're private actors, but when they're caring for a foster child they're officials of the State and should be governed accordingly.

There's no reason to think their homophobia would ever be an actual issue.

...except for children who are gay. Or children who have at least one gay parent. Or children who have at least one gay relative. Or children who have a friend who is gay. Or children who have a teacher who is gay. Or children who have a social worker or case manager who is gay. Or watch a television show with a prominent gay character.

But apart from the ways that these people might be tempted to disparage the sexual orientation of any of the manifold gay people they come into contact with, it wouldn't come up at all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:53 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]



This is a rather fine distinction isn't it? Blasphemy is still a common law offense in Northern Ireland according to Wikipedia (citing the Hansard debate on repealing the law) That requires some sort of reliance on Christianity in the "laws and usages of the realm" doesn't it?

Here is a select committee report (appendix) from 2002 talking about blasphemy. In particular

"5. Some elements of the law are clear...[T]he offence protects only the Church of England. This latter point is a matter on which the Committee received much evidence, with many seeking to argue that the law as it is currently stated extends to protect the Christian faith in general. It is clear, however, that this is not the case. In the "Satanic Verses" case, the court held that "extending the law of blasphemy would pose insuperable problems and would be likely to do more harm than good" (p 452). Although some judgements have sometimes suggested that it might be better if the law were more widely stated (most notably Lord Scarman in Whitehouse v Lemon (at p 308)), it is settled law that at present it extends only to protect the Church of England. "

So it's an important part of the judges' argument that "the Church of England permits its clergy, so long as they remain celibate, to enter into civil partnerships" because that proves that this couple's belief is not compatible with those of the CoE and therefore not worthy of protection.

It was a bit disingenuous for them to say "But the laws and usages of the realm do not include Christianity, in whatever form." because they do not mean to say "the laws and usages of the realm do not include Christianity at all" but to say "the laws and usages of the realm do not include just any kind of Christianity, only ours"
posted by doiheartwentyone at 7:37 AM on March 1, 2011


first para posted by Jahaza
posted by doiheartwentyone at 7:38 AM on March 1, 2011


doiheartwentyone, the England and Wales blasphemy laws were abolished in 2008. (Hence my citation of the Northern Ireland one.) But it does make it difficult to argue that Christianity has not been part of your law since 1917, when you had a blasphemy law as recently as 2008.
posted by Jahaza at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2011


I don't know any non-homophobic religions.

Well, I mean, how are you defining "religion?" My church (United Church of Christ) has three pastors, two of whom are gay. This is the denomination that keeps trying to buy ad space during the Super Bowl making it plain that Jesus loves gay people too, and CBS keeps refusing to sell it to them. Plenty of Christian denominations (ELCA, Episcopalians) will marry gay people and ordain gay clergy. Plenty won't, too, but it seems a little weird to say the whole religion is uniformly homophobic.
posted by KathrynT at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2011


Oh and in case it needs saying: the fact that there are so many Christian churches that have exactly zero issues with LGBT folks makes it pretty plan that this ruling, which is awesome, isn't discriminating against Christians in any way whatsoever. It's discriminating against bigots.
posted by KathrynT at 9:55 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kathryn T, that makes no sense. If you seperate Christians into two different groups like that based on religious belief, you're discriminating based on religious belief, even if you're not discriminating based on Christianity.
posted by Jahaza at 10:30 AM on March 1, 2011


secular values of human rights must outweigh religious beliefs

There's some hope yet for Old Blighty ...

I don't know any non-homophobic religions

Buddhism (to the extent that it's not religious) is one of the most tolerant. In much older times, it was much more a non-issue; only in the past 150 years have OR's felt it necessary to look beyond themselves for sinners to save. (I jest, a bit ...)
posted by Twang at 1:50 PM on March 1, 2011


"If there were an infinite number of good foster parents I'd say sure, let's exclude people on the basis of hypothetical questions asked at the discretion of a social worker. But you know, I don't think there are."

Well, if we had an infinite number of foster parents, we could exclude the misogynistic ones. But as long as we make sure they're not raising girls, it'll be fine.

Well, if we had an infinite number of foster parents, we could exclude the racist ones. But as long as they're only raising white kids, it'll be fine.

That they're religious shouldn't be weighed ahead of that, given that there are plenty of religious folks who aren't homophobic, and that while it seems emotionally like a good idea to keep kids in the faith of their birth, I doubt very much that there's any sort of study on outcomes that justifies it, especially versus the harm caused by bigotry, in this case homophobia.

And yes, it is concern trolling to invent hypotheticals away from this specific case in which this could be a bad thing.
posted by klangklangston at 11:06 PM on March 1, 2011


Klangklangston: there is no specific case. The weird thing is that this was always about hypotheticals and the Court's decision was very close to not making a decision at all - it didn't affirm the Council's position, but it didn't give the Jones' a right to appeal. Here's an excerpt from the conclusion of the Court's judgment:
107 We have stated our misgivings about the exercise of the jurisdiction to consider whether to grant any (and if so what) declaratory relief. The defendant has taken no decision and there is likely to be a broad range of factual contexts for reaching a particular decision, the legality of which will be highly fact-sensitive. Moreover, the parties have: (a) been unable to agree on an appropriately focused question for the court to address, (b) each identified questions that do not raise a question of law that can be answered with anything approaching a simple 'yes' or 'no', and (c) furnished the court with no evidence.

108 On behalf of the claimants it is said that the material the Commission filed in evidence is highly controversial, but no rebutting evidence has been filed. Mr Diamond has sought to rely on material which is unsupported by any evidential evaluation. We are not in a position to assess, let alone evaluate, any of the material relied on. This, together with the difficulties we identify in [107], has meant that such conclusions as we have been able to reach in [90]-[105] must be seen as qualified in the light of the nature of the material before us and the way the case was presented.
After reading the judgment I can see that it has been regrettably misreported. The Court had some excellent arguments that I hadn't considered, and while I still disagree with the way it balanced the Council's duty to duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children with its duty to provide foster-care services that address [children's] needs in terms of [...] religion.... I can see why it took the position it did.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:48 AM on March 2, 2011


Joe in Australia: " After reading the judgment I can see that it has been regrettably misreported. The Court had some excellent arguments that I hadn't considered, and while I still disagree with the way it balanced the Council's duty to duty to "safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children" with its duty to provide foster-care services that "address [children's] needs in terms of [...] religion...." I can see why it took the position it did."

Holy cow, this is a wonderful read. Joe, thanks for finding it.
33 Thus Mr Diamond's skeleton argument opens with these words, "This case raises profound issues on the question of religious freedom and whether Christians (or Jews and Muslims) can partake in the grant of 'benefits' by the State, or whether they have a second class status" (emphasis in original). He continues, "The advancement of same sex rights is beginning to be seen as a threat to religious liberty". He asserts that "something is very wrong with the legal, moral and ethical compass of our country" and that "Gay rights advocates construe religious protection down to vanishing point." He submits that the State "should not use its coercive powers to de-legitimise Christian belief." He asserts that what he calls the modern British State is "ill suited to serve as an ethical authority" and complains that it "is seeking to force Christian believers 'into the closet'." He identifies the issue before the court as being "whether a Christian couple are 'fit and proper persons' (Counsel's use of phrase) to foster (and, by implication, to adopt) by reason of their faith" and "whether Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) views on sexual ethics are worthy of respect in a democratic society." The manner in which he chooses to frame the argument is further illustrated by his submissions that what is here being contended for is "a blanket denial on all prospective Christian foster parents in the United Kingdom", indeed "a blanket ban against all persons of faith", an "irrebutable presumption that no Christian (or faith adherent) can provide a suitable home to a child in need of a temporary placement", that "the denial of State benefits to those who believe homosexuality is a 'sin' must be premised on the basis that such beliefs are contrary to established public policy" and that what is being said amounts to this, that "the majority of world religions [are] deemed to have a belief system that could be described as bigotry or discriminatory because of a code of sexual ethics that some people disagree with."

34 It is hard to know where to start with this travesty of the reality. All we can do is to state, with all the power at our command, that the views that Mr Diamond seeks to impute to others have no part in the thinking of either the defendant or the court. We are simply not here concerned with the grant or denial of State 'benefits' to the claimants. 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. No one is seeking to de-legitimise Christianity or any other faith or belief. No one is seeking to force Christians or adherents of other faiths into the closet. No one is asserting that the claimants are bigots. No one is seeking to give Christians, Jews or Muslims or, indeed, peoples of any faith, a second class status. On the contrary, it is fundamental to our law, to our polity and to our way of life, that everyone is equal: equal before the law and equal as a human being endowed with reason and entitled to dignity and respect.

35 We add this. On these issues Mr Diamond seeks to equiperate the views of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Thus he says (we quote his skeleton argument) that "all of the major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) teach against homosexual conduct." He says, quoting the claimants' grounds, that "major faith groups (including Christianity, Judaism and Islam), hold to the orthodox view that any sexual union outside marriage between one man and one woman is morally undesirable", describing marriage for this purpose in his proposed declaration as "a lifelong relationship of fidelity between a man and a woman." We find these propositions surprising, at least when stated in this bald form. As far as the court is concerned, the content of any religious faith or belief is a matter of fact to be proved by evidence. We are, however, entitled, we think, to take judicial notice of the fact that, whereas the Sharia is still understood in many places as making homosexuality a capital offence, the Church of England permits its clergy, so long as they remain celibate, to enter into civil partnerships. Moreover, the Christian concept of marriage, encapsulated in the famous definition of Lord Penzance in Hyde v Hyde and Woodmansee (1866) LR 1 P&D 130, 133, that marriage is "the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others", hardly accords with the Sharia, which permits a man to have up to four wives and to divorce any of them at any time by his unilateral pronouncement of a bare talaq.

posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on March 2, 2011


Equiperate? Ah ... it's a misspelling of "equiparate" and it's actually a word. Golly. Mind you, most Google references point to definitions of it, so it can hardly be said to be cromulent.

Zarq: the judges went to great lengths to avoid stating new law or even restating old law, so this case probably won't be used as a precedent. They even restricted their findings by saying that they only applied to this case with this set of evidence which - they make sure you understand - was actually inadequate for the plaintiff's argument. It sounds as though it's been a colossal waste of time and public money.

The bit that most impressed me with the judges' decision was their point that the Jones' views (if adopted by the child, I suppose) would harm a child's welfare by making it harder to place him/her with a gay family. That's a decent argument for saying that the Jones' views made them unacceptable foster parents even for young children without gay relatives. The bit I'm unsatisfied with is the judges' apparent failure to consider whether the Jones' would be ideal foster parents for a child raised by black Pentecostalists. Shouldn't the present duty to take account of the child's race and religion (which is actually a child welfare principle) trump the possible harm that might come if the child were to adopted by a gay couple? On the whole, though, it's a pretty good decision for a case that should never have been brought.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:23 PM on March 2, 2011


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