Anti-gay Christian fostering agency that told couples to ‘refrain from homosexual behaviour’ broke law, court rules

Christian foster agency

A Christian fostering agency in England discriminated against LGBT+ people by asking potential carers to “refrain from homosexual behaviour”, a damning Ofsted report has found.

According to the education watchdog, Sunderland-based Cornerstone North East Fostering Service would only recruit carers who were in heterosexual marriages, excluding anyone from the LGBT+ community.

The report states that the evangelical foster agency contravened the Equality Act 2010, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights as it openly “discriminates against those who are not heterosexual”.

“The agency’s recruitment and selection process for foster carers is not inclusive and it does not comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010,” it reads.

“The agency requires applicants to refrain from ‘homosexual behaviour’ and in practice will only accept married heterosexual carers. It therefore discriminates against those who are not heterosexual.”

Ofsted assessed Cornerstone North East in February 2019, downgrading it from “good” to “requires improvement”, but the report was only released publicly last week as the agency contested the findings in the High Court.

Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the agency, argued that Ofsted was “abusing its regulatory function” and suggested it had been “over-zealous” in attempting to be a “champion of equality and human rights”.

He said the watchdog’s objections were “wholly theoretical” and accused inspectors of inventing “hypothesised scenarios” which “do not exist in reality”.

“There are no actual victims or complainants. You cannot set up straw men and say ‘if they were to do this to them then this would be unlawful’, ” he said.

While Cornerstone North East did succeed in having certain amendments made to the report, it has continued fighting for its right to demand carers refrain from “homosexual behaviour”.

A High Court judge ruled in July that the agency had acted unlawfully in requiring this of parents. Cornerstone North East is now seeking to appeal this judgement, stressing their right to uphold “faith-based principles”.