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The EU has made its secularism clear: is that now what the judges have done for the UK?

We know about the European Constitution: what has the High Court done to ours?

By on Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The High Court said that Eunice and Owen Johns should not foster children because they believe homosexuality is wrong (Ellen Branagh/PA Wire)

The High Court said that Eunice and Owen Johns should not foster children because they believe homosexuality is wrong (Ellen Branagh/PA Wire)

We all know, do we not, that the EU is a fundamentally secularist body, which refused any mention in its constitution of Europe’s Christian origins. Relations between the rulers of the EU and the Holy See became distinctly frigid as a result.

They were not improved when the devout Italian Catholic politician Rocco Buttiglione (a good egg) was nominated as a European Commissioner and the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs voted against his appointment, because as a Catholic he was personally opposed to the practice of homosexuality.

Then there was the affair of the Sandbæk Report, which led to a European Union regulation requiring all EU member states to fund abortion services through their foreign aid budgets. This was followed by EU funding of embryonic stem cell research and a European Parliament motion calling for the compulsory recognition of same-sex unions across the whole of the European Union.

So maybe, things might improve a bit now, after a cordial meeting of the president of the European Parliament with Pope Benedict, after which, on the website of the European Parliament, he expressed the view that his “meeting with the Holy Father was very moving”? He went on to say that “At a time of such dramatic changes, a man of faith and intellect like Benedict XVI gives guidance and stability to hundreds of million of people across the world.”
 
Has there been an improvement of EU-Vatican relations? Not really. Here’s the opening of the Zenit report of the meeting. The first sentence explains its warmth:

BENEDICT XVI GREETS EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT
 
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI received in audience today Jerzey Buzek, president of the European Parliament.
A Vatican communique issued after the meeting noted that the talks, which took place in a “cordial” atmosphere, “provided an opportunity for a fruitful exchange of opinions concerning relations between the Catholic Church, the European Parliament and other European institutions, as well as the contribution the Church can make to the union.”
 
The note stated that the two also spoke of other current topics of international affairs, “such as commitment to promoting religious freedom and the protection of Christian minorities in the world”.

You spotted it? Of course you did. Jerzey Buzek is a Polish name, and its holder is a former prime minister of Poland. So of course he’s a Catholic as well as being Polish, and you would expect him to be quite keen on the Pope. But hold on: doesn’t the fact that the president of the European Parliament is now a Polish Catholic mean that there must have been a shift within the EU in a Catholic direction? Well, no. The president of the European Parliament just presides over the debates and activities of the European Parliament. He also represents the Parliament within the EU and internationally as a sort of good will ambassador. The post circulates between the European parties every two and a half years and is wholly without any kind of influence. So: the EU remains as hard-line a secularist entity as any on earth.
 
You might be tempted at this point to say that if that’s the case, maybe a British Catholic ought to be in favour of Britain leaving the EU. As it happens, it wouldn’t break my heart if we did. But that couldn’t be the reason for such a departure, since we have now become, officially, as secularist a nation as any in Europe. Our High Court has declared us to be such, with its ruling earlier this week, that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation “should take precedence” over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.
 
The Court pronounced, according to the BBC, that “if children were placed with carers who objected to homosexuality and same-sex relationships, ‘there may well be a conflict with the local authority’s duty to “safeguard and promote the welfare” of looked-after children’”.

The circumstances were these. Eunice and Owen Johns,  who are Pentecostal Christians, had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers. They decided to withdraw their application after a social worker expressed “concerns” when they said they could not tell a child that a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable. They asked the High Court to rule that their faith should not be a bar to their becoming carers. Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson – in my opinion to their eternal shame – ruled against them.

One of the most sickening features of this judgment is its hypocrisy. The Court rejected suggestions that the case involved “a threat to religious liberty”, and had the gall to say that “No one is asserting that Christians – or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims – are not fit and proper persons to foster or adopt. No one is contending for a blanket ban.”
 
But that’s just what they’re doing: as Robert Pigott, the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent, pointed out, the “court discriminated between kinds of Christianity, saying that Christians in general might well make good foster parents, while people with traditionalist Christian views like Mr and Mrs Johns might well not”. For “traditionalist”, of course, we should read “faithful” or “authentic”: by “Christians in general” we are to understand Christians whose views have been sufficiently secularised to meet the High Court’s requirements.
 
As Eunice Johns said afterwards: “All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing.” That’s simply what any mainstream Catholic parent would say, isn’t it? So where are we now? If a Catholic parent did make any such declaration before witnesses, might there, one day, be a knock on the door, and a social worker standing there asking impertinent questions? Might such a declaration become a reason for taking a Catholic child into care? It ought to be a ludicrous suggestion. But now, one has to ask, is it? Really?

  • Stan

    Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson – in my opinion to their eternal shame – ruled against them.

    This is quite simply factually untrue and indicates a failure of basic reading comprehension. As the judgment says quite explicitly, they declined to make any ruling at all. The actual decision was that the joint application by Derby and the couple for permission to bring judicial review proceedings for a declaration was declined. Blatant misrepresentation of what was actually decided, whether that misrepresentation derives from laziness, stupidity, illiteracy, or deliberate falsehood, assists no one.

  • Anonymous

    Stan – I’m afraid it’s you who are guilty of attempting to whitewash this issue with the red herring that declining to make a ruling on the appeal was not scrutiny and an adjudication.
    I think that basically makes you either sincere and stupid or insincere and a scoundrel.

    Dr Oddie have you read all the details of the Johns case?
    I’d advise keeping away from sharp or breakable objects when you do.
    The grotesque intimidation and maniacal interrogation – six intensive grillings on every aspect of the beliefs – followed up by an intensive investigation, phone calls, being aggressively informed that their weekly attendance at Sunday christian services would be detrimental to their application to foster etc

    http://www.christianconcern.com/sites/default/files/docs/Johns_Approved_Judgment.doc

    The deliberations, the adjudications, the opinions, fallacies, counterfactuals , the downright ignorance and bigotry of those involved was astounding!

    when Mr Diamond for the Johns stated the major abrahamic faiths all proscribed homosexual acts…
    the Judge declared ‘well we’d like some evidence to substantiate that ‘ – and then proceeded to provide his own arguments which lay on a few snippets of cornflake packet counterfactuals -

    that the Church of England allowed their clergy to enter into civic partnerships if they promised to remain celibate [er Since when??? and what has this to do with homosexual sexual activity???]

    that sharia said gay sex was a capital offence but didn’t maintain that marriage was monogamous

    then the insanity continues with banal misinterpretation and infantile misunderstandings of both the law and religious praxis – e.g. a 1795 submission declares that marriage transcends both a legal contract and a religious ritual to an inherent aspect of nature [i.e. accentuating the reality and validity of both aspects] – this is judged to imply the diammetric opposite!!!

    …and the further one progresses the more insane the so-called ‘deliberation’ becomes….

    Stan you suggest laziness, stupidity, illiteracy and deliberate falsehood…If you are referring to Lord Justice Munby? I heartily agree!

  • jng

    It is ironic that human rights laws, usually based on Christian principles, should be used against Christians. It is ironic that the broadcasting media should be anti-Catholic, misrepresenting Catholic teaching and history, under the guise of truth. Or is it too ironic not to be perverse.
    One does not have to be greatly perspicuous, to see that secular society is failing, mainly due to the fact that a pleasure pain philosophy makes it less likely that citizens will exercise the personal discipline necessary to make society work, the most obvious example being the connection between crime and the drug culture, but that is far from the only one. It is an, almost, inevitable result of this that any opposition to the pleasure pain principle will be resented by those who run the society, particularly if it comes from a body like the Catholic Church with roots going back three millennia and with a comprehensive philosophy, constantly examined by quite considerable minds.
    So, given the tenets of traditional Christian thinking, one should not be too surprised that two judges, despite the phlethora of human rights legislation, cannot bring themselves to rule whether a couple being a Pentecostal Christian should be a bar to their being respite carers. Such a ruling would be against the tenor of the law as it now stands. Increasingly, the law is not so much an ass as a rather perverse ass helping to imbue our society with a touch of evil, an unfashionable word, but one useable in the face of such injustice.

  • Mr Grumpy

    Yesterday’s “Catholic must-reads” post linked to a post putting the same point of view as Stan’s. As I’ve commented on this:

    “The Gavin Drake link is useful insofar as he in turn links to the text of the judgment, otherwise not very. He is right on the technicality that the court refused to rule. However he seems determined not to acknowledge what that means for the Johns in practice: that they are left at the mercy of a Council which has ready made it abundantly clear that it will make an issue of their beliefs about sexual morality.”

    Note also that the court specifically endorsed the outcome of the Ladele case, in which a Christian registrar failed to obtain a ruling that she should not be compelled to process civil partnership ceremonies.

  • Tiggy

    Sometimes I wonder where I am living. This country is out of control. These judges are out of touch. There are timesw I simply cannot believe what is happening here, but its not in my name!

  • The Moz

    LOL It’s official: the great western experiment is officially over. It was brave and fruitfull while it lasted but it has grown tired and old and bored. Ok maybe I am exagerating but this has to be one of the most perverted legal rulings in history. WOW!

  • Ratbag

    Another shameful, disgusting example of one set of rights usurping another… the rights of Christians being usurped by the so-called ‘Law Lords’. What laws? Their own?

  • Bonydiver

    The EU is a communist stae in the making and must have its own state religion as a means on which to exclude other free religions. Exspecially Christianity.

    The two so called ‘Justices’ are just ‘state agents’ doing the bidding of their foreign God.

  • W Oddie

    The ACTUAL EFFECT of their ruling WAS AGAINST THEM since as a result they will not be able to become respite carers. Your objection is wholly irrelevant to the point at issue.

  • Anonymous

    On a point of information which article of Regulation (EC) No 1567/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 July 2003 on aid for policies and actions on reproductive and sexual health and rights in developing countries compels Member States to use their overseas aid budget in the way Dr Oddie says?

  • Anonymous

    The judges chose not to make an order due to the poor quality of the questions (too open) and evidence presented to them (they were not qualified to interpret). By not giving permission for a review, quoting existing case law they also reminded us that the secular law will be upheld. Christians need to much more assertive and creative about this. For example, no Christian will deny free will, that independent homosexual adults have the ‘right’ to choose their consenting behaviour. We need to make the argument for ‘tough love’. We are dealing with children here, partially formed personalities who have few responsibilities and therefore, actually fewer rights. While the foster carers are under an obligation to respect the feelings of the fostered child (which I am sure they would kindly do) they are assuming a significant responsibility on behalf of society. I think there is a case to test in law, that a cared for child with homosexual tendencies does not have the absolute right to be assigned to an expressly approving (of homosexuality) couple, merely to have carers who not reproach him. This could be the basis of the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type of question that the judges were looking for. Reproach – no, approval -no, the benefits of pausing for thought – yes. Secondly, in regard to formation, I did not see any meaningful argument regarding the ability of faith, kindness and firm love to form independent confident people. This is fundamental and in fact, there is mounting scientific evidence to demonstrate the plasticity of the human mind. There are examples on record of adults with homosexual histories who have recognised their true heterosexual personality on passing 40. Why are these examples of the Gospel good news not being harnessed in evidence? Why was not a question formulated which asked for a judgement on the principle of formation as a process and on the benign effect of Christian teaching. Thirdly, there is statistical evidence correlating homosexuality with suicide. Why is this not being advanced? No-one is saying that an independent homosexual should be allowed to exercise their free will, however much we feel it may be compromised. But in the case of a cared for child, in light of this evidence, there is a powerful argument for prudence and for protecting his or her ability to make choices in the interests of their future happiness. We need to advance these arguments. Our current strategies are too defensive. We need to up our game and go on the offensive with a robust case for our faith. We need to say that simply affirming a partially formed sense of sexual awareness is not optimum or appropriate behaviour for carers to adopt; that firm guidance along Christian lines is quite compatible with building loving and trusting relationships between carers and child and that the current simplistic interpretation of the law, does not in fact protect or advance the human rights of the child. The law needs to be re-interpreted.

  • Anonymous

    “All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing.” That’s simply what any mainstream Catholic parent would say, isn’t it?”….er…. maybe not Bill, a 2010 UK YouGov poll reported that only 11% of Catholics thought that homosexual acts were morally wrong.

  • W Oddie

    DON’T call me Bill: I may have to put up with your second-rate liberalism, I don’t see why I should have to put up with your damned impertinence.

  • David

    Personally, I look forward to the results when the first Muslim couple are debarred from fostering…

  • Little Black Censored

    Whitewashing with a herring – does that entail cruelty to herrings?

  • Anonymous

    Mixing metaphors is a truly wondrous phenomena; and irrefutable proof that there will always be an England!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O5JUTN7VXGNKY5ENVJLTFSY4MA John Smith

    “This country is out of control.” Get a grip of yourself, woman.

  • Mike

    So do, I but somehow I think that ‘anti-racism’ will trump ‘homophobia’ in their case. The powers that be regard Christians as fair (and easy) game but wouldn’t touch Moslems with a bargepole.

    Teachers are reluctant to strike because of the effect on their pupils. Nurses are reluctant to strike because of the effect on their patients. I suspect that Christian foster parents would take a corresponding view but maybe if all Christina foster parents went on strike until this ridiculous (non-)ruling is reversed then we might get somewhere. Until then they will be simply picked on one by one till there are none left.

    And then where will the next blow strike? Mr Oddie may well be right in that some extremists would want to take children of Christian couples into care. Fortunately there wouldn’t be enough place to accommodate them all. Hopefully.

  • Rbrt Robinson

    That is a complete deluded view – see a psychiatrist immediately!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O5JUTN7VXGNKY5ENVJLTFSY4MA John Smith

    I imagine fostering will be haraam like everything else.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O5JUTN7VXGNKY5ENVJLTFSY4MA John Smith

    The law has spoken loud and clear.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O5JUTN7VXGNKY5ENVJLTFSY4MA John Smith

    The law spoken loud and clear.

  • http://twitter.com/goodwordjohn John McNulty

    This is a caring couple who simply could not lie to children in their care. All Christians know that homosexuality is an abomination! I would not support the couple if they were to encourage children to hate homosexuals, as their sin will be punished by God, but I see no reason why they should be forced to encourage homosexuality by speaking well of it. Christians are becoming marginalised by a secular agenda. Today they’re banned from fostering children, and tomorrow they may be banned from sharing their faith and convictions with their own children. Wake up!

  • http://twitter.com/goodwordjohn John McNulty

    Perhaps an exaggeration, but the message is clear. “Christians, you’re not fit to raise children” Ironic given the Catholic Church’s contributions to education and child welfare.

  • http://twitter.com/goodwordjohn John McNulty

    It doesn’t matter what 11% “think” in a poll. Our faith is not some kind of popularity contest. Do you think that Paul included surveys along with his letters?

    I don’t know if you’re a Catholic, but I’m assuming you’d at least be familiar with the Bible. I have several versions on my desk – all of which are very definite on the subject of homosexuality and charity, and certainly it would be no good deed to guide a child to Hell by failing to warn them of the sinful nature of homosexuality.

  • Tim A

    The Catholic Church’s contributions to … CHILD WELFARE???

    This is presumably the same Catholic Church whose representatives have been guilty of horrific systematic child abuse all round the world, the official Vatican cover-up of such being authorised by none other than the current Pope, thirty years ago when he was head of the Doctrine of the Faith (I believe it’s called), better known to you and I as the Inquisition. Yes, really.

    Get real, please. This is a religion that has harmed people all over the globe, and continues so to do. It hoards wealth to itself and interferes with local and international politics continually. It shows every sign of caring for nothing except total power of every single human life (the eventual goal). Truly, religion is the problem, not the solution.

  • Tim

    Your medieval religious views – and the bigotry they endorse – are hilarious.

    Personally I have read the Bible – the entire tedious tome – and I couldn’t believe what a transparently barbarous, unjust, egotistical god it depicted, and what a load of obvious rubbish it all was. If Christianity really is on the way out at last – and not a moment too soon – we all ought to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

  • Anonymous

    Ever thought of therapy? ps Where in the Bible does Jesus refer to homosexuality?

  • Anonymous

    Firstly, Mr. Oddie I find it highly disingenuous that you are trying to sell your political position on the EU as a Catholic position. Your do little to veil your dislike of the institution, and to me it is obvious that you would hold this position regardless its interactions with the Church. If that is the case than I would much prefer it if you were open and made your political talking points elsewhere.

    You call the EU a fundamentally secularist body, and that in its constitution it refused to have mention to Europe’s Catholic origins. How about Europe’s protestant origins, how about its Jewish and Muslim origins? Considering it was the Romans’s who first adopted the term Europa for the continent – surely they are not part of Europe’s cultural origins. Or the many pagan religions under the Picks and Celts? Or the rational scientific enlightenment thinking that pushed Europe forward in terms of its scientific discoveries and into the industrial revolution? Do you suggest representing all the REST of the cultural history of Europe?

    Regardless, as even most Catholics would acknowledge the Church’s history of state power has not been a success. Therefore, Democratic institutions after the reformation have tried to keep Church and state separate. This is simply political protocol, not anti-religious behavior – it is the WAY constitutions have to be written.

  • Anonymous

    How can it be communist, if the majority of the governments in Europe now are the right-wing parties?
    Just….just.. go read a newspaper or watch the news or something.

  • Anonymous

    It shouldn’t have gone to a ruling. The courts have to rule when a case is brought. The authorities should have allowed the fostering on the basis that they would not impose their religious ideas on homosexuality on the child.

  • Anonymous

    The Church needs to move with the times. A better conclusion could have been made in this case, they should have been allowed to foster, but not to spread their views on homosexuality (not shared with the public, nor 89% of Catholics) to the children in their care. I think considering they were only respite carers and not full-time foster parents this would have been fair.

    The consequences of a homosexual child growing up in an environment in which it is thought to be evil and perverted could have profound consequences for their emotional and personal wellbeing. Young children being the very most vulnerable to ideas from loving authority figures.

  • Anonymous

    If they harbor beliefs the majority of society finds to be wrong to expose to children, then yes. Such as intolerance of homosexuality and repression of women.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not that adoption is haraam, but rather saying a child is biologically yours when he/she is not is haraam. Basically adoption in Islam is more like guardianship in the West. You raise the child, support both monetarily and emotionally, and still maintain family bonds with biological family if possible.

  • W Oddie

    I made it quite clear that my view that leaving the EU would do us no harm was personal ( and therefore nothing to do with being a Catholic). certainly, the EU’s militant secularism does nothing but confirm that view; but it did not originate it: as I say above, the UK is now just as secular a culture. By disingenuous you presumably mean dishonest. Why not say so? Isn’t THAT being “disingenuous”?

  • Anonymous

    I’m a little bit late to this conversation, but I’d like to point out that Jerzy Buzek is a Protestant, as are the majority of the residents of Cieszyn Silesia, where he was born.