The Roman Catholic Church has reluctantly cut its ties with the largest specialist adoption agency in Northern Ireland, following a court ruling in favour of gay adoption in the Province.
The bishops said they could no longer work with the Family Care Society NI, as the agency is now “legally obliged” to process applications from same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples.
In a statement, they said: “It is unreasonable for legislators to oblige faith-based organisations to act against their fundamental and reasonable religious beliefs in the provision of services that contribute to the common good.”
“We believe equality would be best served by support for a diversity of adoption providers, with reasonable accommodation in law for those adoptive parents who value the support of an agency with a particular religious ethos.”
DUP MLA Paul Givan said the move further proves the need for a conscience clause in equality legislation, in order to provide for those with “perfectly legitimate religious beliefs”.
He is launching a consultation on a Private Members’ Bill to introduce a conscience clause on Monday.
He said: “I am firmly of the belief that reasonable accommodation should be made that would allow the Catholic Church to continue providing a service that has been of great value to our society over many years.”
“Just as with Ashers Bakery, the Catholic Church should not have to act in violation of its deeply held religious beliefs. A truly tolerant society should be capable of making space to accommodate difference in our community.”
In 2012, a judge ruled that Northern Ireland must allow gay couples to adopt children, following a court case brought by the taxpayer-funded Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
The former Health Minister Edwin Poots lost his bid to overturn the decision, as the Supreme Court said his appeal did not raise an arguable point of law.