Saturday, 13 August 2011

RC adoption agency persists in its appeal

In June we reported that Catholic Care had been refused leave to appeal by the Charity Tribunal, but noted that the agency’s solicitor had said:

the charity could appeal to the Upper Tribunal for a review of the charity tribunal’s decision not to allow the appeal. He said trustees had not decided whether to do so.

And it is now reported that they have done this. See this from Third Sector Catholic Care given leave to appeal again.

…After a further charity tribunal ruling in June that it would not accept an appeal against the decision, Catholic Care has appealed to the Upper Tribunal, which has the same status as the High Court.

The Upper Tribunal confirmed this week that it would allow the appeal.

Benjamin James, a solicitor at the law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, acting on behalf of Catholic Care, told Third Sector the charity would argue in its appeal that the charity tribunal had failed to properly perform the balancing act required to determine whether discrimination was reasonable given that, according to the charity, the alternative was closing its adoption service.

James said the charity would attempt to overturn the charity tribunal’s ruling that it had not provided sufficient evidence to show that losing funds from the Catholic Church would force it to close the service. The tribunal had suggested the charity could raise money from other sources…

The historical background to this case can be found in this excellent article in Caritas from last October, by Michael King and Fraser Simpson Equality v religious belief. They then go on to comment:

Alternative approaches

The solution followed by three agencies, covering seven dioceses in England & Wales has been to embrace the regulations, both in technical detail and in spirit, by pursuing an open policy with regard to potential adopters.

The result has been that non-discriminatory agencies are simply carrying on doing what they have done before, having regard for the best interests of the child.

Some commentators agree that this has been achieved without undermining or jeopardising the Catholic nature of the adoption agency involved. Although some bishops and clergy may not feel able to sit on the boards of such agencies, it is argued that this does not necessarily alter their Catholic heritage, charism and ethos. It must be remembered that, at law, faith-based adoption agencies are not usually branches of a particular religious body, but are generally autonomous charities in their own right, and so the question of the interests of those whom they are set up to serve has to be uppermost in the minds of the trustees, whatever their decision may be.

Some church leaders have suggested that, going forwards, funding of agencies might be withdrawn and leases over diocesan properties might not be renewed. Agencies that do follow the open route must be aware of these risks and try to mitigate the potential harm by positive dialogue with dioceses and their people. They might perhaps draw comfort from the fact that there are many Catholic charities in existence, dealing with education, the care of disabled or elderly people or rehabilitation of sufferers from addiction, which have no clerical trustees but are nevertheless accepted as carrying out the wider mission of the Church.

The future

All of the Catholic adoption agencies have deservedly high reputations for the work which they have pursued in the best interests of the children whom they were established to serve and one hopes that in one way or another this work will continue.

However, it is in our respectful view possible for those agencies, which after careful thought have adopted an open policy, to comply with the regulations and yet to think of themselves as pursuing the mission of the Church towards children in need of adoptive parents.

The most recent report from Caritas also notes this:

Sarah Clune of law firm Stone King told Caritas: “An interesting point to note is that in its judgment of 26 April 2011, the Tribunal referred to the Public Sector Equality Duty (s.149 Equality Act 2010, which has since come into force), which imposes a duty on public bodies to pay due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity.

Whilst not relevant to the Tribunal’s decision, the Tribunal stated that even if the charity were permitted to discriminate in reliance upon s.139 of the Equality Act 2010, the duty is likely to impact, in due course, on the willingness of local authorities to work with a charity which discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation in respect of adoption placements.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 7:58am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

Don't give up, do they?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 9:26am BST

Can anyone be surprised by this turn of events?

The charity is attempting to survive and maintain its essential integrity by reversing a decision which would result in the extinction of the concept and individual existence of a "RC adoption agency" in England and Wales in what purports to be the largest reversal of the rights and freedoms of organisation of Roman Catholics in the UK since emancipation.

Posted by: Jakian Thomist on Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 2:46pm BST

Maybe 'Catholic Care', if indeed it is to proceed with the appeal - on the grounds of its probable withdrawal from the Adoption Process if it loses - should consider beforehand the moral implications of refusing its services should the ruling authority continue to allow it to discriminate on the basis of the sexual orientation of adoptive parents.

The outcome could well be that Catholic Care agencies may lose the right to place needy children into the care of loving foster-parents. And what good would that do?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 9:37pm BST

This catholic speaker , Michael Voris is quite hard hitting...he will be speaking at the Regent Hall, london on the 24 August.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UJ1ekB--Fo&feature=related

It only costs £5..

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Sunday, 14 August 2011 at 8:21am BST

"in what purports to be the largest reversal of the rights and freedoms of organisation of Roman Catholics in the UK since emancipation."

Yepp, and about time too.
If a religion finds it more important to insist on discrimiating against people who have equal rights under the law than to help vulnerable children, it cannot be expected to be indulged by the state.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 14 August 2011 at 3:20pm BST

This is pure emotional blackmail on the part of the Roman Church. Freedom of religion does not mean a public accommodation has the right to discriminate.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 14 August 2011 at 3:48pm BST

Have just read my comment (Saturday) again. It should have read 'dis-allow' in line 2, rather than the word 'allow'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 14 August 2011 at 5:53pm BST

Robert Ian Williams:

For "hard hitting", read bigot!"

affectionately, Father Dodman.

Posted by: Donald Dodman on Sunday, 14 August 2011 at 8:19pm BST

@ Erika Baker - I think you make a good point and I think you have also shown how the issue of 'rights' quickly turns into a 'zero-sum' game.

To take Gary's comment as an example, we could also argue that "this is pure emotional blackmail on the part of the" British state for forcing a charity to choice between its Catholic origins (regardless of how WE judge those origins) and its mission of helping vulnerable children.

Couldn't we also judge a state that "finds it more important to insist on discrimiating against people who have equal rights under the law (i.e. Catholics) than to help vulnerable children"?

The point is - is this not a rather pyrrhic victory for those true believers in non-discrimination as opposed to those who have sectoral interests?

Posted by: Jakian Thomist on Monday, 15 August 2011 at 6:57pm BST

"The point is - is this not a rather pyrrhic victory for those true believers in non-discrimination as opposed to those who have sectoral interests?"

No, because true believers in non-discrimination would not want to discriminate.

I don't know what this is so terribly hard to understand for some religious people, but it's actually really simple.
If you perform a purely Christian role in the context of your own faith, the opt out from the equality law applies.

If you perform a role on behalf of the state - and that includes placing children for which the state is legally responsible into foster care or with adoptive parents, then the opt-out doesn't apply because the state cannot discriminate against any of its citicens purely on the basis that some people believe God would rather it did.

Comply with the law or opt out. But live with the moral consequence of your choice.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 7:09am BST

"Couldn't we also judge a state that "finds it more important to insist on discrimiating against people who have equal rights under the law (i.e. Catholics) than to help vulnerable children"?"

This is actually priceless.
The state isn't discriminating against Catholics, it's treating them precisely the same as any other group that wants to set up adoption agencies.

You are not complaining about discrimination, because there isn't any, you are ASKING for discrimination in your favour.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 9:48am BST

"...we could also argue that 'this is pure emotional blackmail on the part of the' British state for forcing a charity to choice between its Catholic origins (regardless of how WE judge those origins) and its mission of helping vulnerable children."

No we could not. Adoption agencies are expected to have the best interests of the children they serve as their uncontested top priority. If an organization has cultural or mythological baggage that prevents it from attending singularly to that goal then it should find another business to get into. Children at risk deserve to be placed with the most qualified family and not bounced from foster home to foster home in order to make a petty polemical point.

The RCC's position on homosexuality is well known, and is not the issue: that position does not obligate them to put children in a transient home situation that is a much greater "distortion" of God's will for the family which they are supposedly seeking to vindicate by this selective mining of Catholic social teaching on marriage. Rather, it is their obsession with disavowing anything that might imply the humanity of gays and lesbians that now has them punishing the innocent "little ones" for the "sins of the fathers [or mothers!]". Is there no depth too low for Rome to stoop? For shame.

Posted by: Geoff on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 10:17pm BST

Interesting too - and with some parallels - what is happening in Illinois.
http://www.lambdalegal.org/news/pr/il_20110816_lambda-legal-represents-child.html

I am tempted to respond by allowing the appeal and letting Catholic Care prepare adopters once again.

However I believe this should only be allowed if they accept further amendments to their objects stating that they will only prepare Roman Catholic married couples who are fully committed to ALL Catholic teaching and already have children (to demonstrate their marriage is not sterile and therefore not a marriage at all) and that any child placed with these couples must not be a gay child.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 12:22pm BST

Will this have any bearing, at least on the context and atmosphere I wonder ?

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/08/19/ehrc-confirms-backtrack-on-opt-outs-for-anti-gay-workers/

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 2:04pm BST

"the Tribunal stated that even if the charity were permitted to discriminate in reliance upon s.139 of the Equality Act 2010, the duty is likely to impact, in due course, on the willingness of local authorities to work with a charity which discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation in respect of adoption placements.”

This, surely, is the seminal point made - in favour of Catholic Care becoming aware of the attitudes of Local Authorities, when faced with the prospect of sanctioning adoption agencies.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 at 11:09am BST
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