Saturday, 1 February 2014

St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society (2) VICTORY

The Scottish Catholic Adoption Agency St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society has won its case against the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel has decided that St Margaret's was acting lawfully in restricting prospective adoptive parents to heterosexual married couples.  

Unfortunately the Panel has not put the decision on its website which is frustrating so I will have to comment in detail once I get hold of a copy of the decision itself however the background to the case and my views on it can be read in my earlier Blog 23 June 2013 where I contrasted the legal route taken by St Margaret's with the, ultimately unsuccessful, legal route taken by the English Catholic Adoption agencies which I blogged about 2 November 2012 with links in there to earlier Blogs on this legal saga. 

Whilst I have had no direct involvement in the St Margaret's case I feel personally vindicated by their victory.  I have always said that the English Agencies were going down the wrong legal route.  The English Agency was trying to amend its Charitable Constitution to say 

 "The Charity shall only provide adoption services to heterosexuals and such services to heterosexuals shall only be provided in accordance with the tenets of the Church. For the avoidance of doubt the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds from time to time shall be the arbiter of whether such services and the manner of their provision fall within the tenets of the Church"

and I always argued that this attempt was doomed to failure.  I advised that the Agency should instead amend its Constitution to say that ALL its services were to be provided 
"in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church." 

Well hey presto what does the Charitable Objects of St Margaret's say ?

The Society is established to promote (irrespective of creed) the welfare of children, whose interests are paramount, to foster the stability of family relationships and to assess the suitability of applicants as adoptive parents, all in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

This is exactly in accordance with the form of words I have been advising since 2007.  St Margaret's is the only Catholic Agency which has acted in accordance with my legal opinion and it is also the only Agency that has won a case so forgive me if I seem a little smug this morning.  

I now hope that OSCR will leave St Margaret's alone and let it get on with its job of helping Children which it has done successfully and compassionately for years


Sean Fear said...

This is indeed good news. Is Scottish charity and discrimination law the same as it is South of the Border, or different? If it is the same, then presumably, it would be open for an English Catholic charity to adopt similar wording in its Objects.

When I read the judgement, I immediately thought of your earlier commentary.

Neil Addison said...

Scottish Charity Law differs in detail from that in England but not in areas that affect this decision. Equality Law is the same throughout England,Wales and Scotland so the decision could have value in England and Wales however it has not been published as yet so I cannot say for certain; however the original decision by the Scottish Charity Regulator to remove St Margaret's Charity status was based on its interpretation of English case law against the English Catholic Adoption Agencies

Hughie said...

I have mainly been interested in the ECHR as it affects education but I have often wondered if The Substantive Protocols to the Convention and specifically
Protocol No.1, 20 March 1952
Article 2 could not be viewed as stating a fundamental principle which applies other than purely in relation to education. It states: "No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions." Surely it can be safely assumed that the authors and signatories would have asserted that where the parent or parents of a child contemplating offering that child for adoption are entitled to have their wishes in the matter, if that have such wishes, that it be done in conformity with their "religious and philosophical convictions" respected by the State? In the same way that in Scotland the State can point to the public provision of Catholic schools as their conforming to this fundamental requirement, so might they point to St Margaret's Adoption Agency as their so doing if I be right?