Christian advisor loses gay adoption case tribunal

Dr Sheila Matthews Dr Matthews worked for Northamptonshire County Council

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A Christian adoption adviser dismissed for refusing to recommend same-sex couples as suitable parents has lost her claim for religious discrimination.

Dr Sheila Matthews, 50, from Kettering in Northamptonshire, lost her job with the county council when she asked to abstain from voting in same-sex cases.

She told her employers Northamptonshire County Council she felt children "did best" with heterosexual parents.

The employment tribunal, sitting in Leicester, dismissed the claim.

Concluding a two-day hearing, regional employment judge John MacMillan said she had no case against the council.

He said: "The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed.

"This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts."

He added: "In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived... they were doomed to fail.

"There is simply no factual basis for the claims."

Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity.

He said the issue "transcended the boundaries of all religions" and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the council's legal costs.

'Most appropriate environment'

A district judge will decide what amount of costs should be paid by Dr Matthews to the council at a county court hearing on a date to be fixed.

During the hearing Dr Matthews, who was dismissed from the adoption panel in April last year, told the tribunal the Bible was clear that "homosexual practice is not how God wants us to live".

She told the hearing: "As a Christian, my faith leads me to believe that marriage between a man and a woman in a faithful monogamous sexual relationship is the most appropriate environment for the upbringing of children."

Dr Matthews told the tribunal she first began researching the issue of same sex adoption after attending a training course on gay, lesbian and bisexual parenting in March 2004.

She said: "I believe a same-sex relationship is not the best, most healthy, environment in which to raise children.

"The overarching principle of adoption is to seek the best interests of the child who has already experienced disadvantage."

After the hearing, Dr Matthews said: "Everything is open to be considered, I'm not making any sort of decisions right now.

"We need to mull everything over very carefully. I wouldn't have brought the case if I felt we were destined to fail."

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