‘Unsuitable’ foster-parents to appeal

28 February 2008

by Rachel Harden

“Bible-believing Christians”: Owen and Eunice Johns at home in Derby DAVID BURGES

“Bible-believing Christians”: Owen and Eunice Johns at home in Derby DAVID BURGES

EUNICE and Owen Johns, a Derby couple whose application to foster children was rejected because of their Christian beliefs, said this week that it was wrong to penalise children at the expense of bureaucracy and political correctness. They are now appealing against the decision.

Mrs Johns, aged 59, said on Monday that she and her husband had fostered more than 15 children, but had stopped for a number of years owing to work commitments.

A year ago, they decided to apply to be weekend respite carers for children under ten, but after a number of interviews, Mrs Johns said it was made clear that their Christian practices and beliefs made them unsuitable foster-parents.

Last year, the Government introduced new Sexual Orientation Regulations, which outlaw discrimination against homosexuals. Mrs Johns said it was her views on this, and the couple’s desire to take the children to church on a Sunday, which they believed swayed the council’s final decision.

“When we were chatting with council officials after our first application, they started asking questions about our religious beliefs, as we had put down that we are Christians. We explained that we were very involved in our church — I am a Sunday- school teacher — and would want to bring the children with us on a Sunday.

“They then asked about what we would do if the children asked about homosexuality, or were even being bullied about it.”

Mrs Johns said that she would tell them that, as Christians, she and her husband believed homosexuality was wrong. “I would not lie, but, on the other hand, I did not feel it was at all appropriate for children under ten. However, I am a Bible-believing Christian, and would want to tell them what the Bible says.”

She said that one of her concerns was that the issue of attending church was brought up first. “I wish now I’d had the courage to ask: what if a Muslim applied? Would they be allowed to take children to the mosque? We always used to take our foster-children to church, and there was never any problem.”

After a number of interviews, Mrs Johns said it was made clear to her that the council wanted the application to be withdrawn, but the couple refused. Their case then went to a panel, which deemed them unsuitable.

The case is now being taken up by the Christian Legal Centre, part of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, which says that new laws are making it increasingly difficult for Christian couples to adopt or foster. A statement this week said: “The Christian Legal Centre is supporting the couple and will pursue legal action should the council refuse to reconsider the Johnses’ application.”

The Derbyshire Evening Telegraph reported on Tuesday that the Johnses’ case had won the support of the Mayor of Derby, Pauline Latham, who described the council’s decision as “appalling”.

Derby City Council said in a statement that “the members of our fostering panel include people with a range of backgrounds. All have extensive experience in recommending people as foster carers. We welcome applications from people wishing to be foster carers, but not everyone who applies is accepted, for a variety of reasons. There is a formal appeal process for anyone unhappy with the panel’s decision.”



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