Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Couple 'distressed' over foster ban

Owen and Eunice Johns have called for an independent inquiry after they lost a court battle over fostering

A Christian couple have been left "extremely distressed" after the High Court ruled a local council was entitled to exclude them from becoming child foster carers because of their faith-based opposition to homosexuality.

The court ruled "a conflict" could arise over the local authority's duty to "safeguard and promote the welfare" of children and the couple's beliefs.

Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, said later they had not received justice and called for an independent inquiry. They are also considering an appeal.

Outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where the decision was given, Mrs Johns stood alongside her husband as she said: "We are extremely distressed at what the judges have ruled.

"We have been excluded because we have moral opinions based on our faith and we feel sidelined because we are Christians with normal, mainstream, Christian views on sexual ethics."

The Johns had challenged the approach by Derby City Council to their application to be approved as short-term respite foster carers.

Dismissing the challenge, the judges said the Johns were members of the Pentecostal Church and believed that sexual relations "other than those within marriage between one man and one woman" were morally wrong.

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson said both were approved foster carers from August 1992 to January 1995, and last fostered a child for a month in September 1993.

In January 2007 they applied to become short-term carers and were assessed by independent social worker Jenny Shaw. She reported that Mr and Mrs Johns expressed "strong views" on homosexuality in a July 2007 discussion, stating it was "against God's laws and morals".

The Johns wanted the judges to rule that they should not be considered unsuitable to be foster carers because of their traditional Christian beliefs, but the judges refused and dismissed their application for permission to seek judicial review.

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