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Dismissal upheld over same-sex adoption

by
18 November 2010

by Ed Beavan

A CHRISTIAN paediatrician, Dr Sheila Matthews, this week lost her case against her dismissal as a medical adviser on Northampton­shire County Council’s adoption panel.

At an employment tribunal in Leicester, Dr Matthews said that she had been a victim of religious discrimination. She believes that children should not be placed with same-sex couples, and asked to abstain from voting on such cases.

She was dismissed from the panel before being partially reinstated in July last year (News, 31 July 2009), though not as a full member. She resigned in March this year.

During the hearing, Dr Matthews said that she believed “the Bible shows God’s ideal pattern for healthy living, where family units are headed by socially and legally re­cognised heterosexual couples com­mitted to lifelong partnership.”

She said that her dismissal meant that “people of faith are not per­mitted to sit on government bodies unless they are prepared to silence their beliefs.”

Martin Pratt, former head of services for children and families for Nothamptonshire County Council, told the hearing that Dr Matthews had said to him that she was unable to set aside her beliefs on this issue. “Her inability to act fully in her capacity” contravened their policies.

The Regional Employment Judge John MacMillan ruled that Dr Matthews had no case against the council, and that the case failed “fairly and squarely on its facts”.

He said that there was “simply no factual basis for the claims”, and that “from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly miscon­ceived. . . They were doomed to fail.”

Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her faith. He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the council’s legal costs.

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