Faith-based Adoption Agencies: government decision does not pose a threat to faith groups

Tony Blair announced on Monday (29th January 2007) that faith-based adoption agencies will not have special exemptions from the new Sexual Orientation Regulations, but that they will have a "transition period" of 21 months before the SORs come fully into force at the end of 2008.  He also paid tribute to the work of agencies motivated by religious faith, and stated that it wsa important to ensure that the expertise and services of these groups was not lost.

Read the full statement here.

Much of the mainstream media has potrayed this as a defeat for the Church.  We strongly believe this is not the case.  The next 21 months will bring the opportunity for all faith-based organisations delivering public services to think about our distinctives, and about our relationship with the state. 

We believe that people have been having the wrong debate, using the wrong language, about the wrong issues.  People are confused about the role of institutional Church, the role of religions and the contributions of faith-based providers.  They are all different and we need this national debate and a new Framework for Faith as a way forward to help people come to terms with these, without discriminating against any population groups.

Faithworks will continue to engage in dialogue with government and churches to help broker a way forward.  I would love to hear your views on this.

13 comments

  1. I think that it is complete humbug to say as the PM does that the SO regulations relating to adoption are in the interests of children. Everyone agrees that childrens interests are best served by having a mother and a father. If there is as claimed; not enough people willing to adopt then we need to look at the selection process which is widely seen as being biased against people over the age of 40, Christians, white people and the middle class. Hopefully these bias’ will be addressed by people referring their refusal to be adoptive parents to the legal process of the Human rights act.
    It is also alleged that adoption costs £26000 – and it is said local councils are therefore not putting children forward for adoption. This seems to be extraordinary and cant surely be justified.
    The whole process of adoption needs to be reviewed.
    As to the idea that this new SO regulation does not affect the churches – I am afraid that is nonsense. Legislation is starting to legislate against our conscience and morals. To say there can not be an opt out to a law is also nonsense. I worked as an anaesthetist for years and no one was forced to take part in an abortion if their conscience objected.
    I am afraid we are fed lies and distortions by those in public life and I dont think the vaste majority of people are going to accept this much longer
    Tim Savege

  2. Tim
    Thank you for your comments. I think we have to be committed to service and committed to dialogue and committed to our distinctiveness all at the same time.
    I do agree that the medical conscience question is a good example of how conscience CAN work within a permater or service provision and not enough time has been given to that discussion and paradigm.

  3. The Catholic church lost moral authority when they allow single people with a gay behaviour not just couples with a gay lifestyle to adopt any children. They are not fit to have children under their care.
    Tim

  4. John
    Thanl you for taking the time to comment on our position. I would argue that Faithworks is seeking to hold to a scriptural position on the SOR’s withut confusing the issue of service provision and meeting the needs of other people with our moral judgment of their actions. To accept and serve someone does not idicate agreement with their lifestyle choices or endorsement of their preferences.
    We must also be careful to apply the same rigour of bibliczl authority to every issue in our lives and the world – not just sexuality. Otherwise we are guilty of double standards. What do you think?

  5. John,
    You forget “reddite quae sunt Caesaris Caesari, et quae sunt Dei Deo” in your list. The difficulty is working out what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.
    There’s a huge difficulty with the idea of facilitating sin. Clearly, approving or building multifaith prayer rooms facilitates the sin of worshipping false gods. Where do we draw the line? With the builder? With the timber merchant who supplies the builder? With the taxpayer who pays for these monstrous, unconsecrated contraptions in government buildings? Contraptions that suggest that all religions and religious obligations are equally valid and appropriate? I mean, why don’t we fleece the taxpayer for crystal therapy and time off for UFO conventions while we’re at it?
    There’s a huge difficulty with your last Pauline gobbet, too. Who is my brother? Fair do’s not wanting your fellow Christians to have gay sex, masturbate, be proud, commit adultery, worship Allah, not go to confession, use contraception or do similar evil things. But like it or not, these are not criminal acts, and their prohibitions are not binding on non-Christians.
    To arbitrate on this, we’d really have to get into what Paul meant by ‘ton adelphon mou.’ It’s not clear-cut, I can tell you, and it’s outside the scope of this post. Is it a reflection of the Hebrew? What level of kinship is implied? What relationship to adelphos in extant Greek literature of the period and in the immediate Pauline contect? Etc. etc. But we’d have to tackle that even before we could move on to the gist…!
    And what right have those of us who are Christians to prevent our non-Christian peers to do legal things? And similarly, what right have Muslims, say, to prevent Christians from worshipping God? Some Muslims don’t think women should have equality with men (remember Paul makes a similar point six chapters on from your last quotation about it being disordered for women to speak in church! – but here I’m talking about the public sphere). So would it be right to allow Muslims to discriminate, but not anyone else? Is this sort of thing really worth repealing gender-equality legislation for?
    If we can accept, as Malcolm suggests, that there’s a huge difference between serving a person and approving that person’s way of life, then we can move on. Personally, I think there’s been far too much yakking from the church and not enough charity.
    You also write “If a Christian was the owner of a public house and served alcohol to the public, he is no less guilty of the condition of the drunkard than the drunkard himself.”
    You forget the example of Jesus at Cana, who procured about 180 gallons of wine. People *must* have been slightly quiffy that day! Would you therefore hold Jesus as guilty as the people who couldn’t take their drink?

  6. I realise I may have thrown any non-Catholic contributors here by referring to contraception. Obviously, to Catholics it’s a mortal sin, as much to be avoided as homosexual sex or masturbation, whether heterosexually or homosexually aimed.
    John writes “If a Christian proprietor is offering facilities that others use to sin, he ought not to continue to operate that business or instead, to withdraw his business from those who would use it to sin.”
    The difficulty is that Catholics would then have to refuse people who would contracept. It’s easy to turn away two women at a B&B who wanted a double bed, even if it’s not necessarily the case that they will have sex with each other in that bed. It’s jolly difficult to turn away a married couple, or a heterosexual couple who pretend to be married, on the grounds that they look like the sort of people who might have some contraception in their pockets and not be afraid to use it.
    You can see the difficulty clearly if we extended this to Northern Ireland. Catholic B&B owners would be refusing Protestant guests for fear of facilitating mortal sin. Unfortunately, this would fall foul of laws designed to integrate the two communities. Protestants who didn’t contracept would be as offended as those who did, and each side would claim divine justification for their view on contraception.
    Again, should B&B guests have to show marriage certificates to prove they’re not remarried while one ex-partner’s still alive? It’s in the Bible, much clearer than ‘ton adelphon mou.’
    So I really do think that a principled Christian stand isn’t a black and white issue at all. And unless we apply this to people who would use the room to masturbate, too, we’re going for double standards, and it’s standards the non-Christian world has long since rumbled (see contraception, divorce, remarriage, remarriage in church, baptism as a social rather than religious rite, Defender of Faiths controversies and so on).
    In other exemptions, a Catholic or a Muslim doesn’t have to sell an RU486, even if they’re not the business owner. So there’s a law that allows religious conscience to take precedence over the consumer there (and allows your staff to drive away customers but doesn’t allow you to sack them – a very coercive market situation). But the law doesn’t allow people to refuse to sell contraception. They can refuse to stock it, but it would be discrimination to sell it to some adults but not others. So there’s a law (or lack of) that encourages Christians to facilitate sin – why aren’t Christians fighting it?
    I suggest that Christians have been getting exemptions for some things but have been too lazy or dishonest to stand for a principle behind them. It also has the effect of getting non-Christians to believe that Christians are just being shirty about things they don’t like, which is why the Levitical proscription against wearing polycotton (“mixed fibres”) keeps doing the rounds. If Christians had fought for an exemption from selling *any* sexual bits and bobs in chemists, then they’d have been able to evangelise a principle and establish workable law. As it is, my non-Christian colleagues tell me it just looks like sour grapes.

  7. Before bed, something that should unite all Christians on this matter:
    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
    🙂

  8. Eleutheria,
    I fear you miss the point. Christians aren’t arguing for laws to prevent non-Christians from doing certain things but are arguing that laws should not be enacted that prevent Christians from acting according to their faith.
    Also, if I could drop this in at this point as nobody seems to have bothered to discuss it; what about the right of people to use their private property and businesses as they see fit? Surely this is rather an unprecedented intrusion on private property and private conscience? I’m afraid I am not up to speed on the Biblical view of property rights, but, aside from being willing to stand corrected from that source, it don’t seem right to me.

  9. Hi Chris,
    You write: “Surely this is rather an unprecedented intrusion on private property and private conscience?”
    No, no, no, not at all!
    The precendent was established at least as long ago as the various race relations acts. So we’re talking about forty years or so of this being law! And the principle was recently enshrined in the religious regulations act, which similarly to the SOR prevents people of one religion (or none) from discriminating against someone from another group. It compels the B&B owner to accept Mormons and Wiccans as guests. And what do we make of that?
    There’s a coherent case to be made for equality legislation across the board in the provision of goods and services. There’s a coherent case to be made for private businesses to be free to discriminate against anyone they wish (in the case of the BNP and the Islamic Party of Great Britain, that would include Jews) and take the consequences (loss of trade, social ostracism). (I prefer this latter way, in theory, because I respect property rights absolutely – and think redistributive/progressive taxation is theft and therefore immoral. To me, charity is a moral obligation and not a legal one.)
    What I don’t think we can make a case for is piecemeal opt-outs, because they arbitrarily privilege some people and disadvantage others. After all, why should the state decide that it’s okay for Christians to discriminate against gay people on grounds of their Weltanschauungen but not for other people to discriminate on grounds of theirs (views on immigration, sex segregation, age, gender roles and so forth)? It’s hardly within the state’s powers to say whose views are the truth. It’s for Christians to persuade people that Christian Science is made up, not for government.
    We’re seeing a lot of confusion these days, e.g., a Muslim wanting the right to wear the niqab in a CofE school, and the CofE having the right to force the taxpayer on pain of imprisonment to pay for its religious schools, regardless of whether they’re disproportionate to the number of practising Anglicans. Hardly a moral situation. I don’t want to add to it.

  10. The case for equality legislation as with much else associated, is completely incoherent unless one takes a narrow view of the law being the key element in a social contract view relationships within a state. This in effect puts the cart before the horse in that law and any social contract within society does not come about in an abstract way but because people believe and hold things in common and therefore seek a way of enshrining that in law and constitution. To be brief, law is dependent on shared culture; shared culture is dependent on religion.
    We now have a position where the opposite is the case. Because there is no longer what can be called a shared culture the government is now trying to create their vision of one through the use of the law, hence SORs, compulsory English lessons and community service for immigrants and compulsory teaching of ‘British values’ in the school curriculum. Not only is this reversing the purpose of law, which is to regulate the shared values of an existing community, by trying to create shared values via the use of law, it also, of course, ignores completely the role of religion and belief in underpinning both shared values and the law. In fact, in more cases than not it explicitly attacks religion as one can note from the Parliamentary HR Committees recent report on the introduction of SORs in NI which explicitly recommends that in the event of a clash of rights, the right to equal treatment would trump the right to practise one’s religion.
    This is to me what is at the heart of the debate over SORs and why it relates to private property rights. It is in essence an attempt to impose a moral view using the law. That’s why it is worrying beyond the problems that adoption charities, BB owners and the rest face. It goes to the heart of whether we think a shared culture is desirable, whether it is possible in the present circumstances and what we think our country was, is and should be. And it’s something Christians desperatley need to take seriously and work out what they think.

  11. Thanks for the intriguing and engaging comments. Our view, having read the regulations now that they have been published remains the same. Namely, Christian groups and organisations are free to restrict their services and their membership and the use of their buildings if they feel that is important. Ministers also have a wide ranging exemptions. Guest house owners who also live in their guest house are free to refuse shelter.
    The intrinsic fact still remains that service provision does not equal endorsement. I think a careful reading of the regulations themselves might help us get to a clearer view. We intend to issue a statement in the next few days about what we think is the way forward. So watch this space, and no doubt the comments will fly in!
    Thanks for taking the time to interact

  12. This message is aimed at liberal Christians/ Catholics and those other Christians like ‘Faithworks’ who have foolishly supported the Government on the SOR issue and undermined the majority Christian protest in the UK……
    Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) will be fully implemented from 30 April 2007 in the UK without a full parliamentary debate and without concessions, the Government have used their underhand parliamentary tactics once again to force these unwelcome new rules on the majority without a consensus and without the issue being debated in the House of Commons. What did you expect from this atheistic Government? How do you feel now, you trusting liberal Christians about this Government? Maybe you were taken in by their false reassurances and their smooth sounding sound bites? Fools the the lot of you! When will you wake up to the fact that this Government doesn’t care less about your weak protests? This is an aggressive secularist agenda, all you need do to let it continue , is to do the same as you have done for the last ten years. NOTHING!
    ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing’
    edmund burke.

  13. Simon
    Thanks for taking the time to post your comment on the blog. I think there are many, many followers of Christ who seek to authentically serve others in his name. Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ would agree with your sentiments, I am sure, but many would also disagree.
    You may or may not know, but the SOR’s have a number of exemptions for Christians and other people of religion or belief, as well as for individuals considered ‘ministers of religion. The SOR’s for England, Wales and Scotland have also dropped the ‘harrasment’ clause that was present in the Northern Ireland SOR’s.
    I would disagree with you that many Christian have done nothing about challenging evil in the UK. Millions of Christians make a decision to work hard, sacrifice salary and position, and choose to serve people in communities around the country daily. Many more engage in political discussion, civic life and societal debate. They do so because they love people and love God. Just because they do not agree with you does not make them less followers of Christ.
    Thanks again

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