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News – Human rights

January 2011

Human rights

A Christian doctor has had her appeal quashed at the end of a two-day employment tribunal in Leicester.

     In November, Dr Sheila Matthews went to the tribunal to ask whether professional medical advice regarding the best interests of the child is really a contravention of homosexual rights. She had hoped to take her case to the European courts, having been forced out of her role on the adoption panel for Northamptonshire Council, because of her professional beliefs that children up for adoption are best placed with a father and mother in a stable relationship. Despite her 18 years of unblemished service, she fell foul of the council when she asked to be allowed to abstain from voting in favour of allowing same-sex adoption.

     Concluding a two-day hearing, regional employment judge John MacMillan said she had no case against the council. In a BBC report, he told the court, ‘The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed. This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts’.

     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. She has been asked to pay the council’s legal fees, but has since vowed to take this further.

    

Insults

Dr Matthews has been caught between a legal rock and a hard place. If she stands on this being a purely professional opinion, then she cannot claim religious discrimination. If she claims this is her own Christian belief, then her professional expertise is called into question.

     Dr Matthews now faces persecution for making a stand. Stonewall nominated her in the running for ‘Bigot of the Year’ last year, along with the Bishop of Winchester for telling the House of Lords last July that homosexuality was a personal choice.  

     Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Dr Matthews is now weighing up her options. As quoted on the BBC website, Dr Matthews said, ‘I understand that legislation permits same-sex couples to adopt and they are encouraged to apply, but I have professional concerns, based on educational and psychological evidence, that children do best with a father and mother playing different roles and committed to each other in a lifelong relationship’.

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