Church in England

British adoption agencies may be forced to close due to “anti-discrimination” laws, Cardinal warns

.- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has warned that 12 Catholic adoption agencies will be at risk of closure if the Blair administration enforces legislation, designed to give same-sex couples the same protection against discrimination under the law as ethnic minorities.

The Archbishop of Westminster has warned that the law, which is part of the Equalities Act of 2006, would create a “serious difficulty” for the Church by forcing Catholics to "act against the teaching of the Church [on family life] and their own consciences". Currently, gay couples who approach Catholic adoption agencies are referred to other agencies.

The act is expected to come into effect in April.

However, according to a Jan. 22 report in the Guardian Unlimited, Prime Minister Tony Blair seems to be wavering on the issue.

The Blair administration has considered allowing Catholic adoption agencies exemption from the gay rights legislation, but the prime minister's official spokesman told the British newspaper that Blair still had to decide on the issue.

Blair's official spokesman reportedly said: "This is an issue with sensitivities on all sides and the prime minister recognizes that, and that is why it is worth having some discussions in government before we come to a decision.

The spokesman said the key thing to remember in this debate is the interests of children.

Weekend reports speculated that both Blair, whose wife and family are Catholic, and Ruth Kelly, who heads the Department for Communities and Local Government and is a member of Opus Dei, were in favor of allowing the church some form of exemption.

In a letter sent to Downing Street, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor reiterated that the Catholic Church "utterly" condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse directed against gay people.

However, the Cardinal said, "we believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary, and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service."

There are 12 Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales that are responsible for about 4,000 voluntary sector adoptions. About 32 percent of the children they place have special needs.

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