Doctor dropped over gay adoption beliefs

An experienced paediatrician is to lose her place on an adoption panel because she doesn’t think adoption by same-sex couples is best for children.

Dr Sheila Matthews, who has worked with parents and children for 18 years, was told by Northamptonshire County Council that her beliefs on gay adoption were incompatible with equality legislation and council policies.

Dr Matthews was barred from the panel after asking to abstain from voting on the rare occasions when applications from same-sex couples were being decided.

The married mother of one said: “I don’t feel that placing children for adoption with same-sex couples is the best place for them.

“As a Christian, I don’t believe it’s an appropriate lifestyle and I don’t believe the outcomes for children would be as good as if they were placed with heterosexual couples.”

Dr Matthews says she is happy to continue providing the panel with unbiased medical reports on other potential adopters.

But rather than debate the issue every time the panel was to consider a same-sex couple’s application, Dr Matthews decided it would be better to abstain from the final votes.

However, the Head of Children’s Services at the Council, Martin Pratt, said in a letter that her stance raised “significant problems”.

Mr Pratt went on to say her position violated the law and would create difficulties for the Council when trying to attract a wide range of potential adopters.

“I believe that we could not allow a panel member to continue to participate in the process who is unable to consider, on the merits of the application alone, applications to adopt,” wrote Mr Pratt.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, head of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is backing Dr Matthew’s case, said: “This is a further example of how a well respected professional who holds conscientious views on sexual practice, informed by Christian faith, is being asked to choose between her faith and her job.

“Recent anti-discrimination legislation is having the opposite effect and devout Christians are suffering the consequences.”

Gay adoption has been allowed for some years, and since the introduction of equality laws in 2007 it has been illegal not to consider applications from gay couples.

However, Dr Matthews points to research supporting her position that “a same sex partnership is not the best family setting to bring up children”.

She added: “Professionally and personally I cannot recommend placement in a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for.”

The 50-year-old doctor said men and women bring different skills to parenting and added that children of same-sexparents were likely to face bullying.

“I don’t want to be put in a position of doing something I don’t believe in. That is my human right. Instead I have been accused of discrimination”, said Dr Matthews.

Mrs Williams warned: “This is not the mark of a free and civilised society where freedom of speech and religion is carefully guarded.”

Dr Matthews is the latest case to emerge where a Christian has faced problems at work over their beliefs.

Earlier this month a London council sacked a Christian employee, Duke Amachree, for discussing his faith. The council says staff are not allowed to say “God bless” at work.

In June it was reported that a Christian registrar at Islington Council was disciplined and threatened with dismissal because of her beliefs about civil partnerships.

Theresa Davies was given the ultimatum of being demoted to an entry-level post or being dismissed from the Council because her Christian beliefs prevented her from registering same-sex civil partnerships.

Her story echoes that of her colleague Lillian Ladele, another Christian registrar who was bullied and threatened with the sack by the same council after she asked to be exempted from registering same-sex unions.

An Employment Tribunal upheld Miss Ladele’s claim of religious discrimination last year, but the ruling was overturned at an Employment Appeals Tribunal and Miss Ladele is now seeking a further appeal.

Lynne Featherstone, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, recently said public sector workers who face a conflict between their job and their faith should get another career. Miss Featherstone was one of the MPs scrutinizing the new Equality Bill at Committee Stage.

According to a recent Sunday Telegraph poll, thousands of Christians are losing out on promotions and being hassled at work because of their beliefs.

More than half of the Christians surveyed said they had suffered some form of persecution for being a Christian.

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