Religion in the Public Square: U.K.
After the passage of the Equality Act in the U.K., which prohibited sexual-orientation discrimination in adoption services, Catholic Care sought to retain its policy of placing children with married couples without violating the law. In a series of proceedings, the government’s Charity Commission refused to allow the charity to continue placing children for adoption unless it was willing to place with same-sex couples. The charity appealed to the Charity Tribunal. Just last week, the Charity Tribunal issued its decision.
It denied Catholic Care’s request to continue to provide services in accordance with its religious mission because the tribunal believed the risk of excluding adoptive couples who might not come forward if Catholic Care did not provide adoption services was outweighed by the risk of “reduc[ing] the pool of potential adopters” if it did not place with same-sex couples. The Tribunal also said “the availability of services to same-sex couples from local authorities and/or other adoption agencies” did not justify “the discrimination [Catholic Care] proposed in respect of its own services.” The court concluded that while “religious conviction in the sphere of personal belief is protected in both domestic and European equality law, so that acts of devotion, worship, and prayer (including ceremonies) are exempt from equality obligations” there is an “essential distinction between private acts of worship such as blessings and the provision of a public service such as an adoption agency.”