Thursday, 6 February 2014

Scottish Roman Catholic adoption agency wins its appeal

The Scottish Charity Appeals Panel has overturned the ruling of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in the case of St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society.

The full text of this decision is available online here.

Analysis of the case by Frank Cranmer can be found at Law & Religion UK under the title Adoption, sexual orientation and charitable status: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society.

Frank comments towards the end of his article:

…The first and most obvious point is that it would be quite astonishing if this decision were not appealed. The second is whether or not the Panel was correct to find that the discrimination complained of was indirect (and therefore capable of justification) rather than direct.

As to the second point, it is undoubtedly the case that St Margaret’s is not a public authority and that it does not operate under a contract with a public authority. The most interesting question, however, is how the case is to be distinguished from the Catholic Care litigation in England and Wales…

Neil Addison has also written about this case: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society (3) SCAP Judgment and he comments:

…How the future will lie for St Margarets is difficult to say. it is likely that OSCR will decide not to Appeal because the Panels decision on the very narrow point of “public Interest” was, legally speaking, the crucial point in relation to the powers and the actions of OSCR and the Panels decision on that point seems unassailable. St Margarets may however be faced with further legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and no doubt from the troublemakers of the National Secular Society. What really gets to me is that the NSS don’t do anything themselves to help Children or indeed to help anyone they simply criticise and try to change the good works done by others.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 6 February 2014 at 10:19pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

The problem with these sorts of cases is that they grant churches a status that other organisations with analogous views would not get. The judgement reads like a press release by the Catholic Church, with at for example paragraph 39 the unchallenged statement that "[Charity] is not something that the Church does but something that the church is" far too credulous.

Suppose that the BNP set up a white adoption agency, which although paying lip service to judging each case on its merits, had a policy that gave priority to white parents, parents who don't eat foreign food and parents who don't want their daughter bringing home a foreigner. They could advertise in places like Stormfront to make sure they got the right sort of prospective parents, and avoid time-wasting applications from others. They would need financial support from the BNP, so could not change their policy without folding for financial reasons (compare paragraph 42).

I think it is unlikely that an openly racist adoption agency, whose justification for its racism would be that it is a pre-condition from its funding body without whose support it cannot operate, would retain its charitable status. So it's left as an exercise for the reader as to why an openly homophobic adoption agency is fawned over by an appeal panel in such a shameless manner.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 7 February 2014 at 7:28am GMT

Sadly, this does nothing but add to the catalogue of errors faced by the Roman Catholic Church in the recent accusations of injustice from the U.N. This is one case in which Lord Carey can surely rejoice?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 7 February 2014 at 10:14am GMT

There speaks an interested observer who is a Catholic I am pleased that the charity was treated fairly. Consciences need to be respected, as I respect the consciences of gay persons and their integrity...there always needs to be respectful's called freedom of speech. By the way, sexuality is less clearcut than racial categories.Plus the fact there are respected gay persons who do not believe in gay adoption/ marriage etc.

Posted by: Robert ian williams on Friday, 7 February 2014 at 4:40pm GMT

"By the way, sexuality is less clearcut than racial categories." those looking for rationales to continue discriminating on the basis of the former (esp when recruiting victims of the latter to their side).

"there are respected gay persons who do not believe in gay adoption/ marriage etc."

Respected by whom? Not the *overwhelming majority* of LGBTs. Finding a proverbial "Uncle Tom" among the oppressed has LONG been a favorite tactic of oppressors [And yes, I'm aware that the actual Uncle Tom of the famed eponymous "Cabin" novel doesn't really deserve the rap]

I think Interested Observer has made a spot-on comparison---which I hope an appeals court will appreciate.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 7 February 2014 at 10:17pm GMT

Hopefully it will be overturned and corrected in the courts if this contravenes the LAW.

However reading the charity's material I note that, they claim to 'treat civil partners like married couples'.

A very good development of the charity's thinking and practice.

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 8 February 2014 at 2:00am GMT

JCF trying to speak on behalf of a group so diverse and independent, and labeling those who disagree with him, Uncle Tom's. I think that is a bit unfair...

Posted by: robert Ian williams on Saturday, 8 February 2014 at 8:58am GMT

[RIW, are you talking to me or at me?] Well, I think it is MORE than "a bit unfair" to try pick out the very rare LGBT person who is NOT in favor of their full civil rights, and then use such an oddity against the majority who DO demand civil equality. Very unfair indeed.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 8 February 2014 at 10:33pm GMT

RIW: There are respected straight persons who don't believe in marriage.

Posted by: Richard on Saturday, 8 February 2014 at 11:35pm GMT

Richard..thanks for your support. I think it is wrong to dismiss a person who has theological convictions as an " Uncle Tom.".whether the issue be womens ordination or gay related.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 9 February 2014 at 6:24am GMT

There are plemty of Catholics who think that the policy of opposing same-sex marriage is wrong.

"The survey found that 56% of Americans, 53% of Catholics who attend Mass weekly, and 65% of Catholics who attend Mass less frequently would support “a law in your state that would allow same-sex couples to get married.” Support was stronger among Catholics of ages 18-49 (64%) than ages 50-64 (62%) or 65+ (46%)."

So what conclusion does that lead RIW to reach? If the existence
of a few LGBT people who are opposed to same-sex marriage
has some impact, sure the fact that a _majority_ of American
Catholics are in favour of it is interesting?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 9 February 2014 at 10:13am GMT

There's a difference between not believing in something you could do if you did believe in it, and not believing that others should have a civil right because you don't want it for yourself.

And people who agree with the principle of their oppression just because they personally don't feel constrained by it are rightly called Uncle Toms, wherever their conviction comes from.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 9 February 2014 at 10:38am GMT

First..Christianity does not run on majorities.. the majority shouted for Barrabas.

I respectfully disagree with Erika, but I do feel that the consciences of a religious group, with deep seated convictions should be allowed to stand. Especially if they are not subsidised by the state.

I have a friend who believes in gay adoption and is a gay parent, who draws the same distinction.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Monday, 10 February 2014 at 11:22am GMT


I was replying to your comment that some gay people don't believe in certain gay rights and that this is somehow significant. It isn't. Some people have always been complicit in their own discrimination, that does not make the discrimination acceptable. Remove the discrimination and let those who don’t want their new rights choose not to use them.

But we’re not talking about religion here. The real point here is not about faith at all, it's about the law.
If the law decides that gay people must not be discriminated against, then they must not be discriminated against.
If the law makes certain exceptions for religious people in certain settings, then I don't like it but accept it.

What we have here is not a question of faith but a question of where the boundaries of the law are and whether adoption agencies are included in the opt out from the Equality Act or not.

That a gay friend of yours might not agree with me is completely irrelevant. Other gay friends do agree with me and it is equally irrelevant.

In due course we will know where the legal boundaries are and that will be that.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 10 February 2014 at 3:50pm GMT

I think "Uncle Tom" pretty much covers it, yeah.

If you prefer, call it a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. It's the same thing.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 at 8:17am GMT
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