A Christian couple in England has made several attempts to provide foster care to children but has been blocked because of their views on homosexuality.
Eunice and Owen Johns were scheduled to face the High Court on Monday and their attorneys say the outcome of the case could impact the future of Christian foster carers and adoptive parents.
"It may not be long before local authorities decide that Christians cannot look after some of the most vulnerable children in our society, simply because they disapprove of homosexuality," the Christian Legal Center said in a statement.
The Johns applied in 2007 to be respite carers for children between the ages of five and 10. A social worker visited their home in Derby, England, every two weeks as part of the assessment process. During one of the visits, the social worker mentioned that if a child came from school and told the foster parents that he or she is homosexual, the parents would have to tell the child that it's OK.
Eunice Johns responded, "As a Bible-believing Christian, I don't think I can do that."
With that, the Derby City Council halted the application process. The Johns then faced a panel of at least a dozen people and affirmed again that they refuse to tell a child that it's OK to be a homosexual.
"I told them that I know they're not going to let me foster ... but there's no way I can do that as a Bible-believing Christian and I should not be made to say that," she said.
A week later, the couple received a letter from the council stating "thank you for withdrawing your application."
The Christian Legal Center pointed out the irony in the matter in that the Johns previously served as foster parents for the same Derby council for approximately 12 years.
"The Johns are a loving Christian couple, who have in the past, and would in the future, give a wonderful home to a vulnerable child," said Andrea Minichiello-Williams, director of the center, according to U.K.'s Telegraph.
The Derby City Council reinstated the couple's application and were asked by the Christian Legal Center to clarify their policy on the suitability of foster carers with traditional views on sexual ethics. The council's adoption panel failed to make a final decision about the Johns' application.
As the case faces the High Court, the Christian Legal Center says "this is a vital case for Christian freedoms."
"The council has an obligation to respect the Johns' religious beliefs, but also to comply with equality law, which prohibits discrimination because of sexual orientation. The case will decide whether the Johns will be able to foster without compromising their beliefs," the center explained.
U.K.'s new Equality Act came into effect last month. The law consolidates nine pieces of anti-discrimination legislation into one statute and covers areas such as pay, gender, disability, and religion and belief. The new law is aimed at preventing discrimination in a broad range of sectors including the workplace, education and services.