LONDON, March 8, 2011 ( – Following the decision of London’s High Court last week that a Christian couple could be banned from foster care due to their unwillingness to support the homosexual lifestyle, some commentators are pointing out that the decision amounts to a ruling on what is and is not authentic Christian doctrine.

The court’s ruling found that Eunice and Owen Johns had not been the victims of religious discrimination when the Derby City Council declined their foster care application, based on the Johns’ alleged inability to “promote diversity.”

Despite the Johns’ statement in a conversation with a social worker that their beliefs regarding homosexuality “stemmed from their religious convictions and beliefs,” both the Fostering Panel and the High Court attempted to disassociate the Johns’ religion from their views in support of traditional marriage in order to avoid charges of religious discrimination.

According to the Court decision, in a 2007 Panel meeting considering the Johns’ application, the Fostering Panel expressed concern that its decision would appear to discriminate against the Johns’ on religious grounds.

The Panel wrote: “The department needs to be careful not to appear to discriminate against them on religious grounds. The issue has not arisen just because of their religion as there are homophobic people that are non-Christian.”

In its analysis of the City Council’s defense of its actions, the Court commented: “the defendant says that it has approved foster carers who are very committed Christians who hold to orthodox beliefs . . . and devout Muslim carers who are similarly committed to their religion, but who in both instances are able to value diversity notwithstanding their strongly held religious beliefs.”

Refusing to overturn the Council’s decision, the Court concurred that the decision was not discrimination because it was based on the Johns’ disapproval of homosexuality rather than on the fact of their Christian faith.

According to the highest judicial authority of the United Kingdom, then, these two things are, apparently, separable in principle.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has also weighed in with his own interpretation of Christianity, which supports the Court’s distinction. According to a Tuesday report in the Derby Telegraph, when asked whether Christianity was incompatible with acceptance of homosexuality, Mr. Cameron replied: “I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broad minded.”

In response to these developments, a popular conservative blogger in the UK, who writes under the pseudonym of “Archbishop Cranmer,” wrote last Tuesday: “Yesterday, the High Court swept aside 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy and tradition by divorcing sexual ethics from Christianity. . . . It is a manifest falsehood for High Court judges to claim that a believer’s moral beliefs about sex have nothing to do with his or her Christian faith.”

“Cranmer” likened the decision to a 2009 ruling by the UK Supreme Court against an Orthodox Jewish school. The school had refused entry to a potential student whose mother was a Jewish convert on the basis that the student was not ethnically Semitic, and, therefore, not Jewish.

The Court’s decision that the school could be found guilty of racial discrimination was supported by more progressive Jewish sects, who believed, unlike the Orthodox, that Judaism is not inherently connected to ethnic identity.

The decision, however, was criticized by both Jewish leaders and legal scholars as setting a dangerous precedent in allowing the court to dictate to Orthodox Jews what was and was not integral to their faith.

Now, some are questioning whether last Monday’s decision set a similar precedent for Christianity.

In an analysis of the case, BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott appeared to echo this concern: “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.”

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