Catholic Adoption Group Loses Fight Against Gay Couples

A Roman Catholic adoption agency in the U.K. refused to send children to the homes of gay couples.

But anti-discrimination laws have prevailed. I had a *huge* smile on my face as I read this article:

Catholic Care wants exemption from new anti-discrimination laws so it can comply with Church teaching ruling out homosexual couples as adoptive parents.

The Charity Commission said gay people were suitable parents and religious views did not justify discrimination.

The Leeds-based charity said it was “very disappointed” and might appeal.

Catholic Care — which had been placing children with adoptive parents for more than 100 years — was among a dozen Catholic agencies in England and Wales forced to change their policy towards homosexual people by the equality laws passed in 2007.

Aww… not equality laws! They always get in the way, don’t they?

There’s the Catholic Church in a nutshell for you: fighting tolerance and ignoring abuse.

You would hope they care more about the best interests of the children instead of their personal prejudices. Those kids need homes and gay couples would be just as welcoming as straight ones.

(Thanks to Vanessa for the link!)

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Excellent and only a few weeks ahead of the Pope’s visit to the UK too. That should give him something to talk about and demonstrate even more how utterly intolerant the Roman Catholic church is.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    *happy dance*

    As an adoptee, I’m glad that the decision was made in favor of the children, rather than bowing to religious idiocy.

  • flatlander100

    Sorry, Hemant, but this was I think a poor decision. It involves British law, so I cannot speak to it out of any certain knowledge, but if an American court rendered a similar decision, I’d think it a poor one.

    Mostly, the problems involving church/state relations in the US arise from the religious insisting on public endorsement for their religious beliefs — teacher-led prayer in public schools, for example, or Gideon bible distribution in public schools. But sometimes, the state goes too far and so encroaches on religious liberty. This was, I think, one of those times. I see no reason why the First Amendment should not protect a church-operated adoption service from requiring that the placements it makes be to parents who accept the religious principles of the church making the placements. Parents placing children with such a church-run agency presumably are familiar with what that church requires for a placement and have accepted, freely, those restrictions. No one has, seems to me, an enforceable right to adopt from a church-operated adoption agency. Those who do not or cannot comply with a church’s religious requirements for adoption are free to apply to placement agencies that do not impose those faith-based standards.

    The state can overstep its bounds too sometimes with respect to the separation of church and state and so limit excessively the exercise of religious freedoms. This I think is one of those times. You wrote: “You would hope they care more about the best interests of the children instead of their personal prejudices.” From their POV [which I do not share], that is precisely what they are doing… caring about the best interests of the children they place in light of their religious beliefs. The state should not have the authority to tell them they cannot.

  • Gordon

    The religious should still be bound by the rule of law flatlander. They cant get a free pass to discrimnate.

  • http://atheos-godless.blogspot.com Barry

    Flatlander100: As you said, this was in the UK. Your First Amendment does not apply here! We do not have separation of church and state.

    Personally, I think it’s a good decision. Allowing a religious group an exemption on the grounds of prejudice, however dearly held, would be to set a poor precedent.

    The only negative fallout that could come from this would be if the agency decided to close down altogether rather than place children with gay couples, but then it would be the organisation itself being petty and placing children at a disadvantage, not the state.

  • david

    regardless who runs the organisation the equality law applies to ALL AGENCIES otherwise its not equal so I say well done

    would you be against the law if it said well we dont like adopting to coloured couples ? hell no so what difference does gay make

    at the end of teh day a kid in a home is better than a kid in care

  • http://stephenmarsh.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    No one has, seems to me, an enforceable right to adopt from a church-operated adoption agency. Those who do not or cannot comply with a church’s religious requirements for adoption are free to apply to placement agencies that do not impose those faith-based standards.

    Explain to me how this line of argument is different than “No-one has an enforceable right to eat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter. Those who do not or cannot comply with Woolworth’s whites-only racial seating policies are free to eat at lunch counters that do not impose those race-based standards”?

    It’s a policy that’s discriminatory against a select group of people based on their membership in an identity group, and said discriminatory policies promote a culture that reinforces the stereotype that gay people are incapable of taking care of children. At minimum there may not be an alternative adoption center in the area, or the other ones may be shady and unreliable, etc. etc. etc.

    Go and read Judge Walker’s decision in Perry, because it has a few good arguments against this line of thought. Just because something is a religious belief, no matter how tightly held, doesn’t mean it can’t be discriminatory or unjustifiable or oppressive or unfair.

    (Plus, this is Britain, so they don’t have a First Amendment).

  • flatlander100

    I understand the principle that “the rule of law applies to all,” but atheists [myself among them] challenge that principle frequently when the law involved requires state-support for religious belief. In the US [I realize British law may, probably does, differ as does the role of the courts in interpreting and applying legislation], one of the functions we assign to federal courts [and state ones for that matter] is determining whether a particular law or application of a law by government violates a fundamental principle of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. Seems to me, that such a law in the US would violate First Amendment religious freedom guarantees, and so a judicial decision upholding it would be a poor one.

    We cannot, as atheists, challenge [as we do, often] laws and applications of them which we think violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and then turn around and preach the sanctity of all law when the law involved or its application upholds a practice we favor.

    What’s sauce for the goose, guys [constitutionally speaking] is sauce for the gander.

  • Aaron

    I suspect that due to the confluence of the state and the church in the UK (they have state-sponsored church schools, right?) the church-run agency in this case may be working as a de facto arm of the state. For example, if the children are being sent to this agency by the state, then they would have to comply with the law, which seems to be similar to laws here in intent.
    However, I would need someone who knows more about the relationship between church and state in the UK to tell me whether I am talking out of my butt or not.
    Also here in the US you still cannot discriminate against someone due to their membership in a recognized group, even in a private business.

  • Steve

    When religious organizations engage in secular activities, they need to abide by secular laws. Running an adoption agency has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. It’s a purely social function that can just as well be fulfilled by another organization.

    What they do inside their churches is another matter, but they can’t live by their own rules when they step outside.

  • http://stephenmarsh.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_Division_v._Smith

    The government does have the ability to restrict religious activity that attempts to place itself beyond the reach of generally applicable law (in this case, anti-discrimination law). Saying that a religious belief allows a religious organization to avoid these sorts of laws places religious belief superior to the law of the land, which goes beyond free exercise and extends to establishment.

    But I think that taking a legalistic view here is a little disingenuous. Is homophobia a necessary component of Catholic worship? My gay Catholic friends would disagree, as would most liberal and leftist Catholics, and even if it were that seems to me like it’d be more a case for a discussion about the role of Catholicism in our public discourse, because the Catholic Church is a ridiculously privileged organization worldwide with a lot of power — it basically got away scot-free with institutionalized and systematic sexual abuse for fifty-plus years globally.

  • Anna

    As the daughter of two moms, I certainly applaud this ruling! Children need homes, and same-sex couples are every bit as capable of providing good homes as opposite-sex couples.

    However, I see what Flatlander is saying. In the United States (where things are quite different than they are in the UK), would such a ruling be appropriate? Should a non-Christian couple have the right to adopt from a Christian agency? I’m not entirely sure of the law on this issue, but churches are allowed to refuse to perform marriages for people who don’t belong to the church. Parochial schools are also allowed to refuse admission to children whose parents do not belong to or follow the rules of the church. Is a church-run adoption agency any different from a church-run school? They are both businesses, as far as I can tell.

    I’m not questioning the morality of Christian adoption agencies denying children to gay couples. Obviously, I think it’s both stupid and immoral. But I’m not sure that they can be legally forced to work with couples who don’t share their religious convictions, in light of current laws in the United States. However, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know if I’m getting the full picture.

  • flatlander100

    Stephen:

    You ask: Explain to me how this line of argument is different than “No-one has an enforceable right to eat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter. Those who do not or cannot comply with Woolworth’s whites-only racial seating policies are free to eat at lunch counters that do not impose those race-based standards”?

    Well, for one thing, Woolworth’s was not a religious institution, so no Establishment Clause first amendment right was involved. And the law as it then existed granted Woolworth’s the right to segregate by race, so the principle of “the laws apply to all” some here are citing would, seems to me, apply in that instance as well. Sauce for the goose etc….

    But I don’t want to dodge the question you raise, so let me re-state your example to get at what I think is the core issue you’re raising: Suppose the Church of the Holy Kumquat [Southern Convention] ran a food kitchen providing free meals to the needy, but it welcomed to it only those who were members of that church. Would its doing so violate the Constitution or would or should the state or nation have the power to tell the Church of the Holy Kumquat that it must accept all the hungry who walked in the door — atheist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Kumquatarian or what have you — or end its charity food kitchen.

    Seems to me, again, that the state should have no such power. That the church should have protected by law its right to provide charity only to believers if it so wished. You and I might think that reprehensible. I would. But if that was their belief, they should be able to follow it unimpeded by the state.

    Now, if they ran a restaurant, to make money for the church, open to the public, then it seems to me the state would have the authority to impose public access laws [or Constitutional principles] that banned discrimination at public restaurants — the same law that the courts [finally]decided must apply to Woolworth’s lunch counter matter. One instance involved commerce, the other did not.

    Similarly, if it is a church’s belief that blacks are the spawn of Satan and cannot be admitted to the church, it is not within the bounds of state authority to ban that belief [you can't ban a belief in any case] or to forbid that church from limiting membership only to whites.

    The line between the two freedoms regarding religion and the state in the First Amendment [no state sanction for faith; no undue state impediment to the free exercise of religion]is not a bright and shining border, visible to all without question. It’s a grey area now being probed in a variety of cases in which the courts are trying to locate with a little more precision [but not with absolute exactitude] where that line should be drawn, case by case. They’re not having an easy time of it. [See the various decisions about Ten Commandments monuments on state capitol grounds, etc.]

    In this instance, had the decision been rendered by an American court, it would have crossed the grey zone and limited what should be a protected exercise of religious freedom, regardless of how much atheists [again, myself among them] may despise the particular religious belief involved.

  • flatlander100

    Steve:

    You wrote: “Running an adoption agency has nothing whatsoever to do with religion.”

    That’s your view. It is not, I suspect, the view of the people who run religious adoption agencies. Let us presume, for the sake of argument, that a church running an adoption agency sees as its task, out of concern for the souls of the children it places, to see that they are placed in good faith-adhering homes, with parents who believe and practice the principles of the church involved. They may, and I suspect they do, see their mission as a profoundly religious one.

    Should your belief that running an adoption placement service is in no way a religious matter and is and must always be an entirely secular one trump their religious convictions otherwise? I don’t think so. Or at the very least, it is by no means clear to me under the First Amendment that your secular beliefs must be given legal preference over their religious ones.

  • Steve

    I’m not entirely sure of the law on this issue, but churches are allowed to refuse to perform marriages for people who don’t belong to the church. Parochial schools are also allowed to refuse admission to children whose parents do not belong to or follow the rules of the church. Is a church-run adoption agency any different from a church-run school? They are both businesses, as far as I can tell.

    The way I see it – and this isn’t in any way based on legal fact but pure opinion – is that conducting ceremonies like marriages is the church’s primary business. It’s something no one else is able to do. They can do that in whatever way they want.
    However, running schools and other institutions is purely optional. So they should follow secular laws.

    Legally speaking, the main issue with these activities is how they are funded. Are they funded entirely by the church or does the church receive any kind of public money? If it’s the former, they are more secure. If it’s the latter, they need to follow the law.

    This was the case in the MA adoption agency that was ordered to stop discriminating. The religion right likes to use that case to prove that legalizing same-sex marriage will interfere in their affairs. But they only got into that situation because they were, at least partially, publicly funded. They had they choice to stop taking that money and continue in their ways. Instead – in typical catholic fashion – they were whiny brats and shut down instead.

  • Johann

    What’s sauce for the goose, guys [constitutionally speaking] is sauce for the gander.

    Indeed. Secular agencies should be subject to the same nondiscrimination rules that are being applied to this religious adoption service.

    Wait – they already are, and unlike this service they don’t try to avoid their obligations under these rules? Well, then there’s no problem.

    Oh – you mean that in order to be fair, we should make a special exemption for this service to allow them to provide substandard care for the children in their charge? “We stopped council prayers in a town two states over, so we’ll let you have discriminatory adoption practices to even things out”? Sorry, that doesn’t quite compute for me.

    From their POV [which I do not share], that is precisely what they are doing… caring about the best interests of the children they place in light of their religious beliefs. The state should not have the authority to tell them they cannot.

    The state most certainly does have that authority, the prevailing concern here (fortunately) being the welfare of the children rather than the religious sensibilities of the center’s staff. They’re not allowed to let the children handle snakes, either – what is your position on this flagrant violation of their religious freedom?

  • http://stephenmarsh.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    Flat:

    The example is an argument against the policy and the current state of the law if applicable. Just as the law as it existed back before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was racist and unjust, a law permitting adoption discrimination against LGBT people would be homophobic and unjust. This is why the legalist argument, as I said before, is disingenuous — law has this nasty habit a lot of the time of reflecting the status quo of the society in which it exists, which is often oppressive towards those in minority groups.

    As far as your hypothetical allows, I’m not sure of the exact state of the law, but as far as my personal opinion: I would tell the food kitchen without a moment’s hesitation that it had to let any needy person in or it’d have to close. Situations like that have this nasty habit of really seriously hurting people oppressed by the kyriarchy in the United States, and religions — as privileged organizations — are very, very prone to hurting people that don’t have other options. Policies that discriminate on the basis of religion, or sexual orientation, or race, or sex go further than just the restriction pro forma; each act perpetuates false stereotypes and deepens the manifest and continuing harm against real people. And if the Constitution allows that sort of discrimination and harm, the Constitution is flawed.

    But that’s an aside. Homophobia is not a uniform belief in Catholicism nor a necessary one (just a prevalent one), and adoption agencies seem like they’d fall under the “public access” category that you described (of course, not sure if that’s legally accurate or not). This is especially the case given that religious organizations are defined as charitable organizations under 501(c)3 and are tax-exempt, so I’d have to think that under that basis there can be some kind of regulation.

    Sure, the First Amendment’s religious protections are a grey zone, and they’re messy. That’s not new. But when we’re dealing with manifest social domination and out-and-out power and oppression, not just garden-variety prejudice, and especially when we’re dealing with unchangeable identity group anti-discrimination and the 14th Amendment, that grey zone doesn’t exist.

  • Josh Andrews

    It’s because of increasing secularism within the British courts that this judgement came about. They are increasingly of the view that cases should be judged without reference to religious beliefs. As Lord Justice Laws recently stated

    “The general law may of course protect a particular social or moral position which is espoused by Christianity, not because of its religious imprimatur, but on the footing that in reason its merits commend themselves.”

    The catholic church is still free to hold whatever views it wants but they don’t give them free licence to break the law.

    This is part of a wider debate within Europe over the conflict between two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 9 (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and Article 14 (Prohibiting discrimination). The adoption agency were actually trying to use article 9 to get out of their requirement to conform to equality laws but the High Court gave more weight to Article 14 in this case.

  • Epistaxis

    fighting tolerance and ignoring abuse

    Now that’s just not fair. They don’t ignore abuse. They actively and systematically cover it up.

  • flatlander100

    Johann:

    You ask: Oh – you mean that in order to be fair, we should make a special exemption for this service to allow them to provide substandard care for the children in their charge?

    I neither said nor implied anything of the kind, unless you’re arguing that placement in any religious home necessarily implies substandard care. And any such presumption on the part of the state both would and should be held unconstitutional.

  • David

    I somehow think that affirmations of the church’s right to provide adoptions to only people who match their more restrictive criteria as opposed to the state criteria, due to religious beliefs make one serious error: such affirmations forget the children.

    Children aren’t Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, etc. They aren’t old enough to reasonably decide to be. What such an organisation would be doing would, essentially, be denying available and legally suitable homes to children who need it.

    As I’m probably only slightly more familiar with Commonwealth law than flatlander (damn you, American tv) I can’t say that it’s a good ruling, legally.

    It is noting, however, that Commonwealth law generally favours holding to the spirit of the law rather than the letter.

  • sailor

    so flatlander100, you are quite Okay with pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control because of their religious beliefs?

  • http://www.myspace.com/timtationsmusic Tim D.

    Seems to me, again, that the state should have no such power. That the church should have protected by law its right to provide charity only to believers if it so wished. You and I might think that reprehensible. I would. But if that was their belief, they should be able to follow it unimpeded by the state.

    Pfft. Libertarians.

    Reminds me of when Rand Paul was on Fox News saying that the gov’t has no right to regulate private businesses’ discrimination policies because “that violates their rights.”

    If you receive a tax-free status from the government, then I don’t think you should be allowed to discriminate. Period. Lest we have KKK rallies running around with government funding (or tax-exempt status) before long.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Cue screeches about how persecuted they are because they have to follow the same laws as everybody else…

  • Jane

    There are differences among religious congregations, religious-run schools, and religious-run charities. Yes, all of them may qualify for exemption from paying taxes, but that generally doesn’t impose any limitations on their ability to restrict or give preference to people who subscribe to their beliefs.

    One big difference is whether or not they RECEIVE funding that is paid out of tax dollars. Religious congregations generally do not. But many schools affiliated with religious organizations receive some type of government funding, which may range from subsidized meal programs at elementary schools, to research grants at universities. And many social service agencies affiliated with religious organizations likewise receive government grant money – like Catholic Charities and the Jewish Federations. If I am not mistaken, in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities is the largest adoption placement agency in the state. If they fail to comply with applicable laws, they risk having their government funding withdrawn; and further, some grants are specifically written that you must offer the funded service to the public (not just to members of a certain denomination)

    Another thing that comes into play is, if you are an employer, how many people you employ. Being affiliated with a religious organization does not exempt you from EEOC, ADA, FMLA, and similar federal and state laws and regulations, even if you do not receive government funding. I realize that has nothing to do with adoption – just trying to point out differences between religious congregations – who are clearly there for people to practice religious beliefs – and other types of religious-affiliated organizations – whose primary purpose is something else like education or social services.

  • Richard P.

    I hope they live up to there prejudice, with any luck they will close there doors in protest. At least what comes in to replace them will be willingly following the law.

    Would be nice if a humanist centered adoption agency could replace them.

  • Richard P.

    I also wonder if we should not be looking at this as a significant step in humanities social evolution.
    I think it is great that we are slowly crushing the bronze age mentality that has been crippling humanities growth. Who cares if the religious whine, that’s all there good for. We need to celebrate this step forward for what it is. To see a country that has no separation of church state laws make this decision is a significant move in the right direction towards equal rights for all.

  • beckster

    Just a quick insight on American adoption agencies here – Many American adoption agencies do discriminate, specifically against gay couples and non-religious people. When we adopted we had to find an agency that did not require a statement of faith or a letter of receommendation from a pastor. We worked with a great agency, but it was disheartening to find out that many agencies did not consider us fit to be parents because we did not profess a god-belief, even though we were already parents to a healthy and happy child! (these generalizations are about private adoption agencies and not about foster adoption.)

  • Kamaka

    @ beckster

    Just a quick insight on American adoption agencies here – Many American adoption agencies do discriminate, specifically against gay couples and non-religious people.

    I might be OK with religionists adopting out children based on their faulty dogmas. I could see their point, to have kids brought up “the right way”. But I find at least two problems with this.

    Do the rules they impose delay kids from being welcomed into a loving family? If so, then their rules become immoral.

    Do the religionists provide this service as a boon to humanity, or do they charge large fees? Of course they extract large fees from the prospective parents, money that would be better spent on the child in their new home.

    So the holier-than-thou stance of these organisations doesn’t look all that holy to me.

    They look like child-merchants who pretend to be concerned about the best interests of kids.

  • Kamaka

    Oh, I forgot one important point.

    The catholic church is not to be trusted with children. Not ever, under any circumstances.

    They have proved their worth.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    flatlander100, it might help to look at what it is that adoption agencies actually do as their core function. That is to provide a service, on behalf of the state, to match potential parents to children in need of adoption. In the UK this is largely a function of local authorities (county councils) who outsource part of their function to private or charitable organisations.

    In this case the Catholic adoption agency is the charity organisation that is performing the service for a particular niche market. i.e. Catholics in the UK seeking children to adopt. I’m not sure if they limit their service only to Catholics but I suspect not as this in itself is discriminatory. Whatever the case it is assuredly the fact that they market themselves as a Catholic organisation providing services to catholics.

    Now given that they are providing a service on behalf of the state as a charity does it now seem reasonable that they should be permitted to discriminate? I understand that your first amendment creates a wall of separation between church and state but in this case (even though the first amendment does not apply as it is the UK) the church is acting for the state. It must therefore conform to the same rules that apply to any other adoption agency regardless of the religion of the service providers.

    I’m sure that the Catholic church will not see it like this and that they will see it as an attack on their ability to provide a service under their own rules. The fact is that the discrimination law applies to all organisations. The Catholics are simply not allowed to bypass or ignore the law in the same way that they are not allowed to make burnt animal sacrifices without conforming to the laws regarding the treatment of animals and use of open fires in public places.

  • Arachobia

    As with most of these sort of issues, the justification cannot overrule the fact that this is just plain discrimination. Every single discriminatory attitude against non-heterosexuals can become an old-time apartheid racist law if you just adapt it so all straight people become whites and all other become non-whites.

    Ultimately, this is one group of people labeling another class as sub-human. By implying that they are worse parents, this catholic group is essentially calling homosexual parents ‘lesser than.’ This is never justifiable, regardless of what laws there are. We are now supposed to treat all people as entitled to the same rights, resources and legal protection. Once that’s ignored, no matter what half-assed reasons are used, it’s just plain discrimination.

  • flatlander100

    Sailor:

    You ask: so flatlander100, you are quite Okay with pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control because of their religious beliefs?</i?

    No, Sailor, I am not. Nor did any of my posts suggest any such thing.

  • flatlander100

    Tim D:

    You wrote: Reminds me of when Rand Paul was on Fox News saying that the gov’t has no right to regulate private businesses’ discrimination policies because “that violates their rights.” Still chuckling at that one, since I’m about as far from Rand Paul and his Tea Party clique, politically, as it is possible to get.

    You wrote: If you receive a tax-free status from the government, then I don’t think you should be allowed to discriminate. Period. Lest we have KKK rallies running around with government funding (or tax-exempt status) before long.

    Reductio ad absurdum rarely is a convincing response to any argument.

  • flatlander100

    Hoverfrog:

    That in England religiously-run adoption agencies act as “agents of the state” may be, as you note may well be. I couldn’t say. But it strikes me, from an American POV, that there is a serious problem involved in having a state permit a religious organization to act as “an agent of the state.” [This is also the problem with the state permitting ministers, rabbis, imams, priests etc. to act as agents of the state in performing state-sanctioned marriages -- but that's another topic.]

    There is some substance to the funding argument several have raised — if you take state funding, you follow the state’s rules. It’s the Title IX argument, which is sound overall I think. But let’s take the funding out of the equation: presume a religious adoption agency operating entirely on private funding. Would it be violating the law, and discriminating illegally, if it limited placements to members of its own faith? I don’t think so.

    As I said, there is some merit to the funding-brings-obligations argument. But even there, it seems some here [not you necessarily] wish to apply a double standard. They criticize the Catholic relief or adoption agency that shut down rather than comply with state non-discrimination laws that violated Catholic religious beliefs. How selfish, etc. OK, fair enough. But then flip it: if a Catholic adoption agency is the main placement agency in a state or city, doing valuable public service, and it takes public funds, how selfish is it on the part of the state to deny funding and risk the agency closing [putting many children at risk of not finding homes] if the church agency refuses to abandon its beliefs in order to get the state’s funding? Seems to me the “how selfish!” complaint cuts both ways. Once again, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  • Siamang

    They should follow the adoption rules set by the government, or lose their license to provide this service.
    I fail to see how any religious group has any inalienable right to create adoption agencies, taxi services, construction companies, airlines or any other company… To evade regulation and claim religious exemption from regulation.

  • Siamang

    Flatlander, I think you misjudge the arguments that I recall were made against the Washington dc catholic church when they threatened to cut services in retaliation for gay marriage in the district. Iirc, the argument wasn’t “how selfish”. The argument was instead, “good riddance”, “why is a church receiving public money to distribute public aid anyway”, and “this shows their heart isn’t in it for helping people, it’s in it for political power.”

    No double standard, as I recall. The same standard.

    Now if individual posters from that thread are indeed invoking a double standard from this thread, by all means mention them by name and Call them on it.

    I think you’ll find a consistent view among many here that churches shounldnt be in the business of taking taxpayer money to perform govt services.

  • AxeGrrl

    The audacity of the Catholic church to hold itself up as a beacon of ‘concern for child welfare’ is simply mind-boggling.

    How, at this point, can the gov’t consider it to be a ‘fit’ decision-making body when it comes to ‘what’s best for children’? after ALL that’s happened??

    If the whole thing weren’t morally repugnant, it would be hysterically funny.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    flatlander100

    But it strikes me, from an American POV, that there is a serious problem involved in having a state permit a religious organization to act as “an agent of the state.”

    As you say any religious wedding is allowing a church to act on behalf of the state but a number of social programs by churches helping the homeless, sick or poor do the same thing. Yet in the case of adoption you have a child who is a vulnerable member of society in need of care. Normally society would assume that duty of care. That some organisation has come along and asked to take that burden on is a good thing but they must act as if they are the state or abuse the trust that they have been granted.

    presume a religious adoption agency operating entirely on private funding. Would it be violating the law, and discriminating illegally, if it limited placements to members of its own faith? I don’t think so.

    The children don’t get a say? The state has a duty of care. In your example it would be perfectly acceptable to allow Catholics to discriminate in allowing placements only with Catholics but it would not be acceptable to place children under such a discriminatory policy. So parents would have access to no children as it would be unfair for the state to act in this way and the state is represented by the adoption agency.

    They criticize the Catholic relief or adoption agency that shut down rather than comply with state non-discrimination laws that violated Catholic religious beliefs.

    A fair criticism. It seems that the welfare of children is of less importance than their own dogma in these cases.

    if a Catholic adoption agency is the main placement agency in a state or city, doing valuable public service, and it takes public funds, how selfish is it on the part of the state to deny funding and risk the agency closing [putting many children at risk of not finding homes] if the church agency refuses to abandon its beliefs in order to get the state’s funding?

    Surely Catholics aren’t the only ones willing to home children? These resources that the state offers would be better targeted on organisations that do not practice discrimination. If Catholics lose out as a result then I for one won’t shed any tears at their loss. It is the welfare of the children that should be our chief concern, followed by the happiness of the adopting parents, not the religious sensibilities of the administrators.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Catholic adoption agencies in the UK are simply adoption agencies run by the catholic church. They are not churches.

    All adoption agencies must meet state guidelines. For instance, a religious adoption agency could no beat the children it looks after even if that is a religious tenant of their faith. Government guidelines apply to both the children, the business side (tax, employment law, etc) and wider law such as anti-discrimination policies.

    This was a good ruling. In the US it might have violated the constitution. If so, thats a shame because this was the correct ruling.

    Frankly it seems churches in the states already have far too much leeway to act however the hell they like.

  • Richiban

    @flatlander100

    Don’t forget that this is not some general issue about which wins out – one group’s right not to be discriminated against and another group’s right to express their religion. This is about a specific law created just for adoption agencies, disallowing them from discriminating against prospective parents based on (among other things) sexual orientation.

    Also Catholic Care is not actually a church, it is an adoption agency that happens to be run by Catholics. And they’re trying to wriggle out of the law, by claiming that compliance with the law is “against their religion”.

    I’m all for the courts on this one. As far as I’m concerned, people only have the right to express their religious beliefs as long as they’re not hurting anyone, or breaking the law. And, well, they’re trying to do both in this case.

  • gwen

    Oh HAPPY DAY!!

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    perhaps i can shed some light on this as ive been following this for a long while the reason why they lost this 1 is quite a simple legal thing, catholic care were making the argument that it is against their charitible objectives (those set out when they registered as a charity) as well as their own religious beliefs to cater for gay people the latter of which doesnt really condone discrimination in most cases of course, anyway and becuase earlier the charity commision refused to allow them (and several other cathlolic addoption services) change their charitible objectives so their argument then changed to they would have their funding cut by the catholic church if they should have to comply and therfore closed (of which some have indeed closed whilst others have simply cut their ties to the church and become state funded)

    now the other point, the law in the UK is very odd in comparrison to the US, becuase the US has limitations on the laws its government can pass (technicly) whereas the UK has no such limitations due to the fact the state iteslf is NOT accountible to the law bar 1 exeption, the only law our government can not make (legaly anyway) is a law that would restrict the power of a future government, whether thats right or wrong moraly speaking thats a whole other issue, good example of how the government utilises this power actualy is somthing recently, they lost a court battle (wont go into much detail there cos its long and boring but suphisive to say it was about imposing a redundancy thing on public sector workers) so to get around this they were well within their power to simply change the law making it perfectly legal

  • Josh Andrews

    Jenny Bliss said

    “now the other point, the law in the UK is very odd in comparrison to the US, becuase the US has limitations on the laws its government can pass (technicly) whereas the UK has no such limitations due to the fact the state iteslf is NOT accountible to the law bar 1 exeption, the only law our government can not make (legaly anyway) is a law that would restrict the power of a future government”

    Actually that is no longer true. In 2002 the concept of constitutional acts was established. These now have precedence over future legislation. Included among these is the Human Rights Act (that this case largely revolved around), which has increased power because it is an enactment of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  • muggle

    I’m no constitutional law expert but it seems to me this court ruling would be a good one in the US too. For several reasons, funding aside (as others point out, taking State funding means conforming to State rules):

    1. They’re acting as a social agency which means they’re extending into the area that affects the general population as has been pointed out above and they don’t get to impose their religion on the general public.

    2. Orphan/foster children here in the US are wards of the State. Therefore, they also don’t get to apply their discriminatory practices to the children. (Though I’m sure it happens all the time as beckster has pointed out above.)

    3. As others have pointed out, the charitable arms of churches are separate entitities from the church itself. If they open to the public, they do indeed have to serve the whole public. The catch is they can serve you a sermon along with that free meal as long as they’re not providing the meal with public funds. I’m certain this also gets violated.

    4. flatlander, you act like there’s no restriction to religious freedom because of the first amendment. There is. You can’t practice human sacrifice, for example. Plural marraiges aren’t legal even in polygamist cults. A lot of people are being idiotic enough to say if we have a mosque near Ground Zero, it’s going to lead to sharia law. Um, no, because sharia law would be unconstitutional.

    But, the long and short of it is, I would hope that either the adoption agency has to abide by secular standards or can no longer act as one. The state should stop farming kids out to religious agencies for placement. I’ve got to say I’m appalled whenever it does. And please about they wouldn’t get placed. If the State wasn’t lazy about this, they’d place them. It’s farming kids out instead of taking the trouble itself.

    The problem too in the US is that anything is legal until a law is enacted against it. Actually, I shouldn’t say problem since our freedom is what is so great. But first a law has to be enacted against something unfair and then it has to be enforced. If a person or entity (such as an adoption service) breaks the law, for it to be actually enforced, it’s got to be taken to court via arrest or law suit. This is why we’re such a litigious country. I’d love to see some discriminatory practices of religious organizations of this nature go all the way up to the Supreme Court and change things. But right now, with the current religious fervor in this country and the Supreme Court stacked with a majority of Catholic justices, I don’t think would be a good time for someone like beckster to do so.

  • sailor

    “You ask: so flatlander100, you are quite Okay with pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control because of their religious beliefs?</i?

    No, Sailor, I am not. Nor did any of my posts suggest any such thing."

    So what is the philosophical difference? Both are refusing to offer a service on religious grounds.

  • stogoe

    Should a non-Christian couple have the right to adopt obtain birth control from a Christian agencypharmacy?

    fixxored for moar Dee Scrim Nation.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Jenny Bliss is certainly correct in that our laws are indeed most passing strange in comparison with the laws in the USA. Constitutionally the US actually have a formal declaration and stated constitutional aims. In the UK with our longer history and messier system we’ve kind of built up on earlier systems. The closest we have to a formal constitution is the Magna Carta which is really a system for allowing the sharing of power with the ruling nobles and the royal succession. It is in effect a guarantee that the royal family will keep its word in exchange for nobles keeping theirs.

    The Commons sets out to govern the nation but the Lords are the ones who make the laws (at least on paper) but all are subject to Her Majesty’s approval (again on paper). The Commons are the elected representatives of the people and are supposed to set out their constituents views in the making of laws. As members of the European Union we also gain the mutually agreed laws of our trading partners.

    Our “constitution” is our body of laws. There is no formal protected set of ideals within our legal system except those laid down within existing laws. That does mean that say a law against allowing Catholics to marry into the Royal family (yes, it does exist and has since Elizabeth I) could be overturned and the “constitution” amended.

    The Equality Act 2010 sets out to limit the ability of individuals and groups to discriminate on age, disability, gender assignment, marital status, race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. As with most laws in the UK they remain very non-specific so that judges are able to make appropriate rulings for the specific challenges to them. I really don’t know how this compares with US judiciary.

    So under section 13.1 of the Equality Act 2010

    A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.

    the conduct of the “person” (also an organisation under UK law) who seeks to deny equal treatment on the grounds of sexual orientation is clearly acting against the intent of the law.

    Under the same law the universal treatment of all other groups to the same standards as the Catholic groups ensure that no matching discrimination is taking place.

    Can anyone in the US compare and contrast this approach with your equivalent, if you have one?

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    @Josh hehe im impressed somone actualy rememebers that :D but if i remember rightly that applies only for as long as the UK is part of the EU but im not 100% on that 1 so if im wrong i apoligise ^^ (of course were not leaving the EU anytime soon i hope lol we need them more than they need us)

    oo and @hoverfrog the magna carter only has 3 articles that havnt been replealed yet :P lol just waiting for them to lol

  • Josh Andrews

    The ECHR has nothing to do with the EU. It was created 2 years before the the ECC (now EU) was and is more to do with the Council of Europe. If we were to opt out of it however it would mean we would be suspended from the EU as well as the Council of Europe. It has also been suggested that it may be impossible to repeal the Human Rights Act.

  • flatlander100

    Hoverfrog:

    I wish it was true that other, non-religious or public groups would step in to replace religious-delivered relief services of all kinds. The fact is, often, they don’t. The reason religious organizations provide so many relief services is that no one else, and certainly not the taxpayers, stepped up to provide them.

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    ahhk sorry about that i got a little confuddled there ^^

  • flatlander100

    Muggle:

    You wrote: 4. flatlander, you act like there’s no restriction to religious freedom because of the first amendment. There is. You can’t practice human sacrifice, for example.

    I neither said nor implied that nor anything like it. Once again, reductim ad abusrdim rarely makes a convincing argument.

  • flatlander100

    Sailor:

    The difference is, a pharmacy is a business, open to the general public and so public access laws apply. Same as a Christian bus driver refusing to drive a bus with the atheist “Yes, Virginia, there is no god” ad on the side. He must drive or be fired.

    But a religious relief agency… providing food kitchen or adoption placements… is not a merchant peddling products to the general public in anything like the same sense that a pharmacy is. And so the same legal access standards need not necessarily apply.

    Look, folks: I am not a Catholic, nor am I a believer in any sense. I’m an atheist. Nevertheless, much constitutional conflict in the US involves the problem of finding a workable balance between rights in conflict. There is a right on the part of the public to make laws limiting discrimination in the public sphere. There is also a right on the part of the religious to practice their faith. This disagreement is then a conflict between two rights we all — or most of us — think are protected, and should be protected, under the Constitution.

    To put it simply: I don’t think we can in the long run protect our right not to engage in religious practices and not to have the state endorse such practices if we don’t simultaneously protect the right of the religious to practice their faith — and yes, of course, within reasonable limits no sane person would object to. [No human sacrifice, refusing medical care on religious grounds for minors, etc.] All I’ve suggested, and still think, is that in this case, the state forcing a religious adoption agency to violate its religious beliefs by placing children in what it considers [however wrongly we might think] with parents who are engaged in sinful activity goes a bit too far and crosses the line into invalid state coercion of secular belief and practice on the religious.

    We all object to the state coercing religious practice on the non-faithful. I hope. We should be just as vigilant in opposing undue state coercion of secular practices upon the faithful, which this decision [again, were it rendered in the US] would I think do.

  • Josh Andrews

    There is nothing in this judgement that prevents Catholics from being homophobic bigots. However, the judge stated that their rights to Freedom of Religion could not constitute a justification to discriminate in this case “because of the essentially public nature of their activities, carried out to a significant extent on behalf of local authorities, and funded to a greater or lesser extent by them.”

  • Anna

    Should a non-Christian couple have the right to adopt obtain birth control from a Christian agency pharmacy?

    Actually, no, they don’t have that right. Remember this case? A private business can choose whether or not to sell certain items. If a pharmacy is owned and operated by conservative Christians, they are not legally obligated to sell alcohol, tobacco, birth control, etc.

    Orphan/foster children here in the US are wards of the State. Therefore, they also don’t get to apply their discriminatory practices to the children. (Though I’m sure it happens all the time as beckster has pointed out above.)

    True, although many (most?) private agencies facilitate adoptions for pregnant women and the potential adoptive parents. The babies are not usually born yet, and therefore are not wards of the state. Those private agencies can discriminate by insisting that the couples they work with be married Christian couples, for example. If an agency is working with foster children instead, who are wards of the state, it seems like different rules might apply.

  • flatlander100

    You’re right about a private business, like a pharmacy, not having to sell certain items the owner does not want to stock, for whatever reason he finds sufficient. Like condoms, for example, if the owner is a devout Catholic.

    But a case that cuts a little closer to the dividing line between private right and the public good involves this: suppose that a pharmacist did sell prescription birth control pills… but refused to sell them to anyone who he did not know to be married or who could not offer proof of marriage because of his religious convictions. Did he have a legally defensible First Amendment religious freedom right to refuse to sell a product he did sell to married customers to the non-married? The answer, as I recall, was no, he did not. I think the decision was, if he sold to any he had to sell to all who were legally able to buy it [i.e. had a proper prescription.]

  • http://friendlyatheist.com luz

    My husband works in the foster care system and when he was recruiting families, one of his main objectives was to get gays and gay couples to enroll as foster parents. Why you may ask? Well,because there is such a thing as GAY foster kids!Gay Children who need a home. Abandon Gay Children. Abused Gay Children.I am sure a gay child would feel comfortable with a gay couple.People who understand them.

    So while the religious are against gay couples adopting or fostering children, there are plenty of Gay children who are forgotten. Parents dont want them,religious hetero couples dont want them and Gay couples are not an option.

  • http://www.polymathisthegoal.wordpress.com Chris/blindside70

    So I guess the lesson learned here is that the The British Equality Law and Catholicism are both dumb? That’s what I’ve learned anyway…

    Makes love the idea of the separation of church and state more here in the US, it keeps the state from involving itself in religious matters as much as it keeps Benny Hinn from being the state appointed minister of the holy ghost or whatever other BS bible belters would do here…

  • Lauren

    These innocent children should not have to be forced to be around this bad influence. If you think that it is OK, then you need to go buy yourself a catechism.(a book that tells you what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do) You must be very lost if you think that this is OK. I am not saying this to offend you, but to teach and lead you to God and to the right way. 


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