Alex Blaze

UK Foster Parents Told They Can't Be Homophobic

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 01, 2011 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: adoption rights, child care, Christian beliefs, eunice johns, foster parenting, homophobic behavior, owen johns, religion

A couple in the UK, which had previously fostered almost twenty children and was considered an exemplary foster parenting couple, owen-eunice-johns.jpgwere told several years ago that they couldn't foster anymore because they're homophobic. They sued, and the court sided with the city council in keeping them from foster parenting:

But following the introduction of equality laws, they were blocked from fostering in 2007. Social workers said the couple's belief that homosexuality is wrong meant they were not suitable to look after a child aged between five and eight.

It's a murky issue, what with the lack of foster parents in the UK on the one hand, but the fact that some of the children placed with this couple would be gay and they shouldn't be subjected to those views at such a young age (and not that kids who never come out as LGB should be subjected to those views either). All I know is that if we were talking about a white supremacist who wanted to foster she wouldn't be considered, even if non-white children would be kept from her home.

What gets me, though, is how much of the coverage I've read of this has followed the recent trend in British media when it comes to anti-gay discrimination - the perpetrators are always Christians losing their rights. The Telegraph article linked above is a good example, with the title "Foster parent ban: 'extreme distress' of 'anti-gay' Christians' over ruling" and the entire piece riddled with boo-hoo over how Christians are being punished for their religious belief.

It's almost as if British journalists assume that Christians are, fundamentally and immutably, homophobic. And lost in these articles are the opinions and experiences of LGBT people.

The Daily Mail's title is more of the same: "Christian beliefs DO lose out to gay rights: Judges' ruling against devout foster couple." The Independent opens with: "A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality because of their faith...." Aberdeen's Press and Journal describes the couple as losing out because of their "their faith-based opposition to homosexuality."

The Christian Legal Centre's title was "Christians forced to withdraw fostering application," but we'd expect that from an organization devoted to advancing an anti-gay agenda. Their XD goes on:

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and the CLC, said: "The judges have claimed that there was no discrimination against the Johns as Christians because they were being excluded from fostering due to their sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs.

"This claim that their moral beliefs on sex have nothing to do with their Christian faith is a clear falsehood made in order to justify their ruling.

This is a rightwing framing that I think it'd be good for all of us to avoid. If the fight is set up as "Christian vs. Gay," we're already in a losing position because: 1) there are lots more Christians than there are gays; 2) many people's first reaction to Christianity is warmer and fuzzier than their first reaction to us; and 3) it erases the gray areas and the complexities of these issues and turns it all into a war, and the only people who win wars are war profiteers (ahem).

It's counter-productive framing that works for homophobes because it comes down to entrenched power. Here's how Eunice John, who lost in court, describes the decision:

"But because we are Christians, with mainstream Christian views on sexual ethics, we are apparently unsuitable as foster parents.

"We are unsure how we can continue the application process following the court's ruling today.

"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.

If they were Christians with outside the mainstream values? If they were abnormal Christians? If they didn't feel like they were the center of human opinion, would they have the gall to say that their beliefs should be imposed on small children?

And what if their homophobia didn't come from Christianity? If they were Muslim or Jewish or just homophobic atheists? Something tells me this debate would be playing out differently.

People ultimately make of their religion what they want to, even if they're people like the Johns who find it easier to blame someone else for their attitudes and absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions.

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The Anglican church prides itself on being liberal. It is virulently homophobic and the largest church in the

Perhaps if we don't want a dichotomy between GBLT rights and the Christians who vehemently oppose them, then the ehads of all the major churches in the coutnry - if not the world - might want to stop being virulent homophobes, making grossly homophobic statements and dedicating so much resources into push homophobic laws

I can't stand many of those news sources - but the reason why they're so often presenting it as a difference between Christianity and our rights is because that is what the churches are presenting.

Exactly on the last paragraph. It's a conservative meme that they're promoting because it's right there, it's available and it's the lazy way to analyze the conflicts.

Wow. I'm really not sure how I feel about that.

Ron Avila | March 2, 2011 2:04 PM

Apparently we never should have stopped feeding "christians" to the lions.

Kevin Rahe | March 6, 2011 8:53 PM

This event has caused a sea change in my own view of the push for homosexual rights and same-sex "marriage." I used to think that those who argue in favor of such things always want to drag religion into the argument because it's easier to dismiss an argument on the basis that it's just a religious teaching rather than one based on reason and logic alone. However, I now see that for a lot of them their desire to suppress religion outweighs their interest in seeing homosexuals have more rights. In other words, the few homosexuals who honestly desire "marriage" to someone of their own sex are being used as pawns by those who simply want to attack religion. Given that only a small percentage of homosexuals actually avail themselves of same-sex "marriage" where it's available, it's quite possible that a number of these disingenuous perpetrators themselves identify as homosexual.