An evangelical adoption agency in the United Kingdom has vowed to challenge a decision by the Court of Appeal requiring the organization to violate its biblical beliefs and place foster children with same-sex couples.
In Friday’s ruling, Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service was permitted to work exclusively with Christian caregivers, however, the married couples seeking to adopt can’t be exclusively heterosexual.
Simon Calvert with The Christian Institute, which is representing Cornerstone said, “What the court has done today, in the name of opposing discrimination, is actually to support discrimination by a powerful state regulator against a small voluntary group.”
He continued, “This shocking defence of state over-reach in religious matters fundamentally misunderstands the nature of Christianity.”
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) downgraded Cornerstone from “good” to “requires improvement” in 2019 after accusing the agency of discriminating against LGBT couples.
During a High Court hearing in July 2020, Justice Julian Knowles said the agency “must change its recruitment policy to allow gay men and lesbians who are evangelical Christians to apply to become prospective foster parents, and it cannot lawfully refuse to do so.”
Cornerstone disputed the order, stating that its refusal to place children with same-sex couples was justified based on its religious freedoms.
Additionally, the agency’s counsel at the time, Aidan O’Neill, argued that a heterosexual marriage embodies Christianity. “You cannot be an evangelical Christian whose lifestyle is one which endorses same-sex activities,” he stated.
Following the latest ruling, Pam Birtle, CEO of Cornerstone, said in a statement that she was “disappointed” but that the agency had already “won more than it had lost.”
“We are convinced that equality law protects our ability to operate in a distinctively evangelical way,” Birtle said. “For the law to do any less would be a breach of human rights and a denial of the values of a liberal democracy.”
She continued, “I do this work because I believe in it with all my heart. I was in the care system myself as a teenager and have been a social worker, foster carer and adopter over the last 40 years. I believe we are called by God Himself to show the love of Christ to all people, including people who are LGBT, through doing this work in a uniquely Christian way.”
Birtle concluded her statement by asking Christians to pray for Cornerstone as it moves forward in the appeal process.
“We invite Christians to join us in praying that a better accommodation will be found that allows evangelicals to play their full part in British public life without unjust restrictions being imposed on them.”