Catholic Care given leave to appeal again
By Kaye Wiggins, Third Sector Online, 2 August 2011
Upper Tribunal will hear case of charity that wants to stop same-sex couples from using its adoption service
The charity Catholic Care has launched a fourth appeal against a ruling that it cannot exclude gay couples from using its adoption service.
In April the charity tribunal ruled that the Leeds-based social care charity could not change its objects to say it provided adoption services to heterosexual couples only. The charity had argued that without discriminating in this way, it would lose its funding from the Catholic Church and would have to close the service.
After a further charity tribunal ruling in June that it would not accept an appeal against the decision, Catholic Care has appealed to the Upper Tribunal, which has the same status as the High Court.
The Upper Tribunal confirmed this week that it would allow the appeal.
Benjamin James, a solicitor at the law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, acting on behalf of Catholic Care, told Third Sector the charity would argue in its appeal that the charity tribunal had failed to properly perform the balancing act required to determine whether discrimination was reasonable given that, according to the charity, the alternative was closing its adoption service.
James said the charity would attempt to overturn the charity tribunal’s ruling that it had not provided sufficient evidence to show that losing funds from the Catholic Church would force it to close the service. The tribunal had suggested the charity could raise money from other sources.
According to James, the Upper Tribunal had decided an appeal from the charity would have a “real prospect of success in establishing that the charity tribunal had erred in law”. He said, however, that this was the standard wording issued to all organisations granted permission to appeal, and did not indicate a particular likelihood of success in this case.
James said he hoped the appeal would be heard later this year.
The charity was granted permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal by Mr Justice Warren, who was the lead judge in the recent case between theIndependent Schools Council and the Charity Commission over public benefit and fee-charging schools. Warren is president of the Upper Tribunal and may choose to sit in the case.
Catholic Care has been attempting to win permission to discriminate against same-sex couples since December 2008, when the Charity Commission first ruled that it could not do so.
This article, appearing on the ‘Third Sector’ U.K. Charity web-site, has attracted many comments from people wondering why Catholic Care has been given so much public money to pursue its claim for exemption to the U.K. Law requiring all adoption agencies to comply with its non-discrimination ruling for Same-Sex Parents Adoption.
Many people see this fourth attempt to bypass the law on Homosexual Adoption processes as a blatant waste of public money. However, the lawyers processing Catholic Care’s claim for exemption from the requirement to abide by the legislation, rightly point to the legal right of Catholic Care to pursue its case to the extent permitted by the relevant laws of the land. As long as the courts are willing to allow additional claims to be heard on appeal, then Catholic Care has the legal right to further re-hearings.
That being acknowledged; many people – including Roman Catholics who believe the Church’s stance on homosexuality to be unjust and ill-conceived – are uneasy about the latest attempt to get around the anti-discrimination legislation. In other words, by their insistence on challenging the legislation, Catholic Care are in danger of being labelled homophobic – a label which sits ill with those R.C.s who think their Church should be moving in the direction of a more liberal attitude to homosexuality & Gay Adoption.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand