Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Charity Tribunal rejects appeal from Catholic adoption agency

Updated

The Charity Tribunal has today rejected the latest appeal filed by Catholic Care. For earlier reports on this long-running saga start here.

The tribunal’s own press release appears below the fold. The full text of the judgment can be downloaded here (PDF).

Jerome Taylor had this report in the Independent Catholic adoption charity appeal dismissed.

Kaye Wiggins had this in Third Sector Catholic Care loses tribunal appeal over gay adoption.

Other reports: Press Association, BBC News, and Guardian.

Comment from:

Religion Law Blog Catholic Care v Charity Commission

British Humanism Association No ‘opt out’ from equality law: Catholic adoption agency will not be able to discriminate against same-sex couples

Christian Concern Catholic Care forced to offer adoption services to homosexual couples

Stonewall Stonewall response to Charity Tribunal dismissal of Catholic Care’s appeal

Christian Institute RC adoption group loses gay couples appeal

Press Release from Charity Tribunal

1. This case concerned an appeal by Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) a charity, against the decision of the Charity Commission to refuse its consent to a change of charitable objects. The charity wanted to change its objects so as to bring itself within an exemption to the Equality Act 2010 and thus be allowed to refuse to offer adoption services to same sex couples.

2. The Tribunal has dismissed the charity’s appeal for the reasons given below.

3. This matter has had a complicated procedural history and has been affected by changing legislation over the past 2 years or so (paras 2-5) The test the Tribunal had to apply was under s. 193 of the Equality Act 2010 which exempts charities from the equality obligations of the Act, where the Charity (a) acts in pursuance of a charitable instrument - ie their charitable objects require it and (b) it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

4. It was accepted by the charity that discrimination on the basis of religious belief alone would be unlawful - para 14 - so this was not in issue. The Bishop of Leeds gave evidence in which he expressed the view that the law should respect the Catholic Church’s views on this issue in the same way that it allows Churches not to have to bless civil partnerships. However, adoption is a public service, funded (in part) by local authorities, so does not have the same exemptions under the 2010 Act as those which cover private religious worship (para 60);

5. The charity argued that the discrimination should be permitted because:

(I) Same sex couples could obtain adoption services from local authorities and other voluntary agencies so would not suffer detriment if the charity alone refused them services;

(II) The charity can only operate its adoption service with the assistance of donated income, and its supporters would stop supporting it financially if it did not discriminate, so it would have to close if the discrimination were not permitted;

(III) The closure of the service was such a serious consequence that the discrimination proposed was proportionate to the aim pursued, which was that of seeking to increase the number of adoptions which take place;

(IV) The charity can attract potential adopters that other agencies would not attract because of its distinctive approach.

6. The Tribunal found that:

(I) There must be particularly weighty reasons to justify discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Act (para 53);

(II) Same sex couples would suffer a significant detriment by not being able to use the charity’s own high quality service. The availability of other services to same sex couples could not amount to a justification for discrimination by the charity (para 53 again);

(III) The charity had not made out its case that its donors would cease to support it if it offered adoption services to same sex couples. Its accounts showed that its donated income is not restricted to its adoption services but applicable for all of its work; it produced no evidence of the views of donors, only the Bishop’s opinion on this point; the discriminatory views of 3rd parties cannot in any event justify discrimination by the charity (paras 54 - 57);

(IV) As to the risk of closure, the charity has not yet explored all the alternatives. Other Catholic charities have found alternative means of operating since the law changed. The expert evidence heard by the Tribunal contradicted the charity’s case that if it were to close, children would be left un-adopted (para 58).

(V) The charity did not prove its assertion that an increase in its resources would inevitably lead to more adoptions taking place, because the Tribunal found that the expert evidence about the local authority funding arrangements for adoptions did not support the charity’s case in this regard (para 49).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 26 April 2011 at 6:31pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

Reaction here should be muted as the case has already had extensive legal consideration. Simply put this is how the law stands. Also it is not a case of Christianity being pushed out of public life, merely that the law applies to everyone and discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation has been outlawed by parliament, albeit with some clearly defined exemptions covering religious groups.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Tuesday, 26 April 2011 at 7:50pm BST

In the spirit of "muted" remarks ......

Those who wrote the press release from Christian Concern still cannot tell it as it is.

So, Catholic care has failed in its bid to discriminate against gay couples - it is not being "forced" to do anything. The charity has already said it would rather cease preparing adopters rather than treat all equally.

Further - it is completely false to imply that Catholic Care has been unwilling to "place" children for adoption with gay couples. Local authorities and courts "place" children for adoption, Catholic Care have prepared couples (and singles) as prospective adopters and supported some thereafter.

The parties themselves agreed that religious views alone would not justify ""discrimination"" - not the Tribunal.

While the rest is just pap and scare it does mentions 50,000 children in the story when only some 4,000 are actually up for adoption - that doesn't help people get the right information, but then, there is nothing in this story aimed at helping people to understand the truth or come to a good understanding of the facts in the case.

I think those who sat in judgment here are also as surprised as I was that this Charity is only seeking an exemption in their adoption service and appears completely at ease with implementing all the equalities legislation etc in its dealings with the other services it runs. Might there be some playing to the gallery here?
The bishop seemed to be completely unaware that the charity prepared single people too.


Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 26 April 2011 at 11:12pm BST

“It is unfortunate that those who will suffer as a consequence of this ruling will be the most vulnerable children for whom Catholic Care has provided an excellent service for many years”

It is not "unfortunate" but it is Catholic Care's own deliberate choice to let those most vulnerable children suffer.
The responsibility lies squarely with Catholic Care.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 at 9:12am BST

One should remind oneself that this whole area was gone into at the time of passing the law in parliament. Adoption agencies were given a period of time to adapt or make appropriate arrangements 18 months if I recall correctly. There was a heated debate at the time but I think parliament decided correctly. Since then the law has faced an ingenious legal challenge which was never likely to succeed and indeed if it had succeeded would have meant judges overruling parliament which is rare in our political system of parliamentary governance.

Hence I think it has been part testing out the law which is fine, part playing to a media gallery in a theme/meme of christian victimhood which is a little tiresome.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 at 11:34am BST

It is true that there was much debate at the time about allowing an exemption for Roman Catholic adoption agencies - an exemption many of those agencies themselves did not support.

There was some pretty abusive stuff flying around - particularly aimed at Ruth Kelly - as well as the usual abusive stuff aimed at gay people.

The outcome has been pretty good. Nearly all of the highly trained teams of adoption workers kept their jobs even if the Roman Catholic Church no longer operates the charities. However the relationships are often still very close and many of the adoption agencies operate from RC owned premises and are still supported by RC parishes.

Yet while no specific exemption was given, the law certainly allows for the best interests of the children to trump all other considerations. If Catholic Care had been able to show that children seeking adoption would be seriously disadvantaged their request would have been granted. They did not. Not in any way. There was never any question of overturning Parliament's wishes.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 at 5:23pm BST

I've been astonished (but then why should I be?) by the comments attributed to Bishop Arthur Roche in The Guardian report (27/04/11): "It is an important point of principle that the charity should be able to prepare potential adoptive parents according to the tenets of the Catholic faith."

As a committed Catholic who has also been a specialist child & family social work practitioner I'm not aware of any such tenets relating to the upbringing of children. Surely he is not suggesting that LGBT people cannot be 'proper Catholics'? Is his next step to prevent the baptism of the children, adopted or otherwise, of same-sex Catholic couples?

Posted by: martin on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 at 6:08pm BST

"Where Charity and Love are - there is God"
(Holy Thursday Liturgy)

Therefore any 'charitable' organisation ought to be witnessing to the wideness of God's mercy. It would appear that the Halls of Justice agree in this particular instance. Deo Gratias!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 at 11:34pm BST

I think to ask is to answer, (2nd) martin.

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 28 April 2011 at 6:33am BST

Martin Reynolds was right again... I do feel that they could get by the law by operating out of the Isle of Man.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Thursday, 28 April 2011 at 9:08pm BST

I'm a Canadian. I don't have any problem with challenging Churches, or anybody, on why they want exemption to basic human rights laws.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Friday, 29 April 2011 at 3:35am BST

Rosalind English commented again on this case, see
http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/05/03/adoption-same-sex-couples-and-religion-again/

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 May 2011 at 5:15pm BST
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