Christian couple warned not to appeal decision barring them from foster care

Eunice and Owen Johns CNA World Catholic News 3 4 11 Eunice and Owen Johns

After being advised that they had almost no chance of winning their case, a Christian couple in England has decided not to appeal a decision that barred them from becoming foster parents due to their disapproval of homosexual lifestyles.

Under English law, Eunice and Owen Johns – Pentecostal Christians, aged 62 and 65 – could also have been forced to pay the opposing side's legal fees, if they lost the appeal.

That prospect, along with the judiciary's apparent commitment to the verdict as it stood, contributed to their decision not to challenge the ruling they received on Feb. 28.

In their ruling against the Johns, two judges of the Nottingham Crown Court described the couple's traditional Christian view of sexuality as “inimical to the interests of children,” indicating it could endanger a child's welfare.

The Johns' lawyer, Paul Diamond, told CNA on March 3 that Christians in other countries – particularly in the United States – should take a lesson from the judgment, and from England's recent history.

“In the United Kingdom,” Diamond said, “these 'equality' laws are working out as a very anti-Christian agenda. People are at risk of losing their jobs for wearing a cross. People who say the slightest thing in favor of the traditional family may lose their jobs – for being 'sexist' and 'homophobic.'”

“People ask, 'How do your courts come to those decisions?' They think it won't happen in America, that your judges won't do that. What they fail to understand is that it's a hard-nosed political agenda.”

“When these laws were introduced, particularly by Prime Minister Blair, they were not resisted,” Diamond said. “They seemed fair and reasonable. But over the past five or six years, we've had a number of crazy decisions in Britain.

“We once had a millennium's worth of human rights and religious freedom, just built into the culture,” Diamond recalled. “It's inconceivable that these millennium-old freedoms could be overturned in 10 years – but they were. People are getting very scared, and rightly so.”

“Things can change very rapidly. If a few key things happen in America, and a few judicial appointments should be made, you will find that there can be very swift and rapid changes in your basic assumptions of what your rights are.”

“It's got very little to do with the law,” he observed. “You have to see these decisions as political acts. One set of 'rights' is triumphing over another. It's simply masked by this language of 'tolerance' and 'diversity.'”

The Johns have cared for 15 foster children in the past. But their last attempt ran afoul of new foster care guidelines, issued by local authorities in accordance with Britain's Sexual Orientation Regulations and the 2010 Equality Act. 

Diamond pointed out that the local foster care guidelines now contained “a clause called 'Valuing Diversity,'” which he described as one of many “suitably vague clauses that required people to engage in 'tolerance' and 'goodwill.'”

“The Johns were asked, 'What would you do if the child was homosexual?' They were slightly surprised by that question, because they had indicated they wanted a child around age five or six for short-term care.”

“But one of them said, 'Well, we'd try to gently turn him around, but we'd always love him.' And that phrase was what triggered it.”

The Johns received assistance from the U.K.'s Christian Legal Centre in their fight to continue as foster parents. But they were told after losing the case that the prospects for an appeal were dismal.

“If we went to the court of appeal, I believe the outcome would have been worse,” Diamond lamented. “The judgment, which was so bad in terms of Christian rights, would have been reinforced at a higher level. And we have cost rules here, so you can end up paying the other side for your attempt to stand on your rights.”

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“I thought an appeal, in the current circumstances, would be hopeless – and would make the situation worse for Christians. The senior court of appeals judge made it quite clear that he believes the outcome of religious practice is 'discriminatory' against homosexuals.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams, who assisted the Johns in her position as the head of the Christian Legal Centre, shared Diamond's concern over what was happening in Britain. Like Diamond, she voiced concern that the United States and other countries could be traveling a similar path, sooner than most citizens might expect.

In England, she recalled, Christians and other religious groups had received “continual assurances” that equality and non-discrimination laws would not be used to subject them to discrimination for their own beliefs.

“And yet,” she said, “the law has very clearly been used to trample Christian rights.”

“What we've got is the imposition of a new political orthodoxy,” Williams explained. “If you don't think or act in a certain way, you will find yourself barred from public office. It's very frightening, and it's very real. We have plenty of cases here at the Christian Legal Centre to prove it.”

“It doesn't take long,” she reflected. “We were not in this position at the beginning of the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown regime.”

“I want to give a warning to America,” Williams stated. “Look at what's happening here, in the United Kingdom. It leads to censorship, and the exclusion of a group of people from the public sphere.”

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“I would reckon that it wouldn't take much longer than a second Obama administration,” she estimated, “for America to find itself in the kind of situation we currently have.”

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