A Jamaican-born British couple say they have been told they can’t foster a 16th child in their Derby County home, because as Christians they don’t believe homosexuality is right.
Owen and Eunice Johns, who are back home in Jamaica, are preparing to take the matter before the European Court of Justice with the support of a coalition of Christian groups who are firmly opposed to the gay and lesbian lifestyle.
“These people (gays) have more rights than Christians. We have been called retarded homophobics because we want to stand up for the truth,” Eunice Johns, a retired nurse who hails from Trelawny, said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Johns appeared at joint press conference with the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Family to highlight what they suggested was a “secular agenda” in the fight against HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The group, which consists of several influential Christian leaders, reaffirmed their objections to the lifestyle practised by gays and lesbians.
The Johns have been foster parents to 15 Jamaican children since they started taking children into their home in England in 1992. All went well, they said, until they went back to the Derby City Council to foster a 16th child in 2006.
“They started asking about my Christianity and I told them I was a Christian, I go to church on a Sunday. I told them I was a Bible-believing Christian,” Eunice said.
She was asked: “What if a child of five came to you one day from school and told you that they were homosexual?” To this she responded: “I would care for that child, I would give them love and attention and all that’s required.”
Her response, however, did not find favour with the social worker and when Eunice ventured to ask what her response should have been, she was told: “You would have to tell this child that it is alright to be homosexual.”
Failing to convince Eunice to change her mind on the matter, the social worker said she would have to raise the issue with her manager. Two weeks later the manager came to see her.
“She said to us: ‘Well, Mr and Mrs Johns, we were told that you said you could not tell a child it is alright to be homosexual, and in this day and age you would have to because so many children are not sure where they are and a lot of them are confused. So many people are confused these days, because they weren’t told that their sexuality and what they are feeling is right’.”
She said she and her husband were then taken before a panel of 12 persons at the Council where they were asked to explain their views on homosexuality. Two weeks after that, they got a letter thanking them for withdrawing their application to foster children. The couple were shocked, because they had made no such request. However, they decided not to contest the Council on the matter.
“After they said, ‘thank you for withdrawing’, we said ‘that’s alright, we would leave it, no skin off our nose, perhaps we shouldn’t foster’,” she recalled.
But just a few weeks later, they learnt of another couple whose foster child was taken away because they refused to tell them that homosexuality was right, she added.
After the passage of The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations of 2007, Johns said they began hearing of Christians who were being prosecuted for denouncing the gay lifestyle. Several Christian children’s homes had been closed, Christian pastors were being abused, and several Christian business owners were forced to close because they decided to affirm their belief. Christian marriage counsellors were also coming under increased pressure because of their refusal to marry same-sex couples, she claimed.
The Johns’ case eventually attracted the attention of the Christian Concern for Our Nation, a religious lobby group in London. Their solicitors took the matter before the Nottingham Crown Court in 2009. Following months of court appearances by the Johns, their lawyers, representatives of the Derby City Council, and civil rights group, the High Court, in a landmark ruling in 2010, noted that laws protecting gays from discrimination superceded the couple’s religious belief.
“The judge did not say we could not foster children, but the judge was saying England is no longer a Christian country, it’s now a secular country. He made it quite clear that we have got to adhere to what is being set out,” said Eunice, who came back to Jamaica five months ago with her husband.
Their solicitors are now preparing to take the matter before the European Court of Justice, Johns said, adding that Jamaica was in a good position to refute what she believed was a hidden agenda by the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community.
“I notice the word that they are using here while trying to push this thing through is tolerance. We are Christians, so we should be tolerant. But it only takes that first door and it’s like a domino effect, all of the other doors are going to be opened,” she said.