Updated again Saturday
Charity Finance reports Charity Tribunal dismisses Catholic adoption case
The Charity Tribunal has rejected the latest attempt by a catholic adoption charity to circumnavigate rules preventing it from discriminating against homosexual couples seeking to adopt children.
Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) had sought to take advantage of an exemption in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which suggests that discrimination can occur if it is in pursuit of charitable objectives.
In its preliminary judgment in March, the Tribunal had ruled the exemption could only apply if the charity’s activities were not made unlawful by other provisions.
But at the final hearing last month, the charity was unable to demonstrate that it could operate in such a way.
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Children’s charity Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) has lost its appeal to the Charity Tribunal against the Charity Commission’s refusal to allow it to change its objects to allow its adoption service to discriminate against homosexual parents.
The charity wanted to take advantage of an exemption in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 that permits charities to discriminate on the grounds of “the provisions of a charitable instrument”, such as a governing document.
But in its first ever final judgement, the tribunal’s panel of three legal members, led by president Alison McKenna, concluded that Catholic Care would infringe other provisions in the regulations if it discriminated against homosexual parents and would therefore be operating unlawfully…
Two earlier reports from the same source:
Allow us to exclude gay people, Catholic adoption charity tells Charity Tribunal.
Adoption charities must justify equality law exemption
The decisions of the Charities Commission and the Charities Tribunal are all available online:
Charities Tribunal: (all PDFs)
Directions Order with Ruling (7 January 2009)
Ruling on Preliminary Question (13 March 2009)
Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v The Charity Commission for England and Wales decision (1 June 2009)
Other media reports:
Daily Mail Steve Doughty Catholic ban on adoption by same-sex couples is ruled illegal
Neil Addison writes at Religion Law Blog about this in Catholic Adoption Agencies lose case:
…What the agencies were trying to do was to change their objects so as to add the following
“The Charity shall only provide adoption services to heterosexuals and such services to heterosexuals shall only be provided in accordance with the tenets of the Church. For the avoidance of doubt the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds from time to time shall be the arbiter of whether such services and the manner of their provision fall within the tenets of the Church”
They argued that this would enable them to operate because of the exemption for Charities under reg 18 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 which say
“18.—(1) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a person to provide benefits only to persons of a particular sexual orientation, if—
(a) he acts in pursuance of a charitable instrument, and
(b) the restriction of benefits to persons of that sexual orientation is imposed by reason of or on the grounds of the provisions of the charitable instrument”
Mr Addison goes on to explain where he disagrees with the tribunal, why even if the agency had won it would have been a pyrrhic victory, and he also offers an alternative solution that he had recommended, but which was it seems rejected.
The Catholic Herald has reported on this, Judgment seals fate of adoption agencies. This includes:
However, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator allowed St Margaret’s Adoption and Child Care of the Archdiocese of Glasgow to change its charitable objects to continue its policy of assessing only heterosexual married couples and single people as adopters.
That has prompted a complaint from the National Secular Society, see Scottish Charity Regulator lambasted for caving in to Catholic Charity over gay adoption.
See also SNP and Catholic Church’s secret plan to sidestep legislation on gay adoptions in the Glasgow Sunday Herald.
Ekklesia has reported on the English case, and refers to the views of the LGCM RC Caucus, see Gay Catholics welcome rulings against adoption agency discrimination.
The publication of the proceedings before the Charities Tribunal has publicised the actual drafting of the proposed charitable objects which the Leeds and Birmingham agencies wished to adopt.
Both draft instruments relied upon the following paragraph to gain the desired exemption: “The Society shall provide adoption services only to heterosexuals and only in accordance with the tenets of the Roman Catholic church”.
The Roman Catholic Caucus of LGCM points out that, contrary to the general press comment about the appeals by these adoption agencies, the agencies were not seeking permission to place children only with married couples. They were seeking to exclude all lesbian, gay and bisexual people from the ambit of their services, including those who choose to live their lives celibately in strict accordance with Catholic church teaching.
“This proposed object is blatantly contrary to Catholic church teaching,” comments the Caucus.
The Caucus says it also became clear in various discussions before the Charities Tribunal that the “adoption services” referred to include services to children who are to be placed or have been placed for adoption. The proposed wording would therefore have required the agency to ascertain the sexual orientation of any child who was placed for adoption as a condition of providing services to that child.
As the “adoption services” described include support after the child has been placed, this would also involve withdrawing after-care services to a family in which the adopted child comes out after the adoption has taken place. The LGCM Catholic Caucus says it considers that “most Catholics will find this proposal both offensive and contrary to the values of the Roman Catholic Church.”
The full text of the statement from the LGCM RC Caucus is available at Caucus reacts to Adoption Ruling.