Christian doctor forced off adoption panel goes to EU Court of Justice

By Hilary White

LONDON, November 16, 2010 ( – A British Christian pediatrician has applied to be heard at the European Court of Justice after she was forced out of her position on the Northamptonshire County Council Adoption Panel because of her belief that adoptive children are best off placed with a mother and a father. Sheila Matthews, a physician with 18 years experience, is being represented in her legal challenge by human rights barrister Paul Diamond and the Christian Legal Centre.

Matthews has mounted the legal challenge to determine whether professional medical advice regarding the child’s “best interests” is “negated” by “homosexual rights.” Her case was heard before an Employment Tribunal in Leicester yesterday.

The 50-year-old doctor was removed from the panel after she asked to be allowed to abstain from voting when children were being placed with homosexual partners. She was allowed to continue providing medical advice to the Council but not to participate fully in the Panel process. She told the Tribunal that after her dismissal, her contribution to adoption work by the Council was “increasingly reduced and her experience disregarded.”

This March, Dr. Matthews resigned from her job as a community pediatrician, saying that she felt she could no longer work somewhere where she was “denied the opportunity to fully use her professional skills,” according to a statement released by the religious rights campaign group, Christian Concern for Our Nation.

Martin Pratt, the former head of services for children, young people and families, spoke for the Council at the Tribunal, saying: “I asked [Matthews] whether she could consider applicants on their merits … and she said she could not. She did not believe it was in the interests of the child to be adopted by a same-sex couple. She felt that she could not vote or participate in the panel.”

Matthews told the Tribunal, however, that she had effectively been “excluded from practicing her vocation due to her Christian views, and her professional judgment.”

The law allows homosexual partners to apply to adopt children and local councils are not permitted to refuse them on the grounds of their “sexual orientation,” under the Labour government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations.

But Matthews said that while the law allows it, she has “professional concerns, based on educational and psychological evidence, of the influences on children growing up in homosexual households.”

This evidence, she said, leads her to believe that adoption by homosexuals is not “the best possible option for a child.”

“I believe it could have been possible for the county council to have allowed me to continue working as Medical Advisor and bring my commitment and experience to the job but also allow me discretely to abstain from voting in less than 1 in 20 cases.”

Matthews has made an application for the case to be referred to the European Court of Justice, saying it is a vital one for religious and professional freedom, and its result could affect the careers of many Christians and other professional medical staff and the futures of many children in need of adoption.


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