A government-funded child services agency rejected a Canadian couple as foster parents because of their Christian faith and their belief that homosexuality is sinful, according to a lawsuit filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the couple, who have three biological children and tried unsuccessfully to become foster parents in 2017-18. They are known as “A.A.” and “B.A.” in court documents. The father is the pastor of an evangelical church in Ontario.
“[I]t seems that this agency is putting ideology ahead of children’s interests,” the Justice Centre said in a statement. It filed suit on behalf of the couple on June 14.
An Oct. 1 letter from Simcoe Muskoka Child, Youth and Family Services to the couple stated: “We feel that the policies of our agency do not appear to fit with your values and beliefs and therefore, we will be unable to move forward with an approval for your family.”
The couple completed the required training in March 2018 and were interviewed by a social worker May 1 of that year. The worker said her son is gay and asked the pastor if his church was a “fundamental” one that “believes in outdated parts of the Bible, written thousands of years ago,” according to the suit.
The suit says the pastor told the social worker that:
- “He preaches the Bible, and believes the Bible remains relevant;
- “The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin;
- “He believes all people are created in the image of God and that all are worthy of respect, dignity and honour;
- "He would not tolerate harassment or bullying of anyone who might be gay;
- “He realizes that homosexuality is a sensitive subject and, when he is called on to preach a text that speaks of homosexuality, never preaches in a way that treats homosexuality as more sinful than any other sin or singles out any particular sin;
- “The couple is committed to loving all children in their home.”
The suit says the agency rejected the couple’s application “because it disagreed with their belief, rooted in the Bible, that homosexual behaviour is sinful.” Further, a “large number” of evangelical families “successfully foster” children, the suit says.
The social worker, in a subsequent phone call with the father, said the couples’ beliefs about homosexuality conflicted with the agency’s “anti-oppressive” policy, according to the Justice Centre.
Simcoe Muskoka Child, Youth and Family Services received $796,045 from the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services in 2017.
The Justice Centre claims the agency violated the couple’s freedom of religion and conscience and their freedom of thought, belief and opinion that are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This decision has the practical consequence of fewer children being placed in foster homes, and more children remaining in institutions without a mom or dad to tuck them in at night,” the Justice Centre said in a statement. “... There are far too many children in need of a loving family for Child Services to discriminate against well-suited applicants on the basis of the applicants’ religion.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Yannis Papanastasopoulos/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.