A Brighton care home for elderly Christians has won back thousands of pounds of funding withdrawn by the local council because of its religious beliefs on homosexuality.
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Pilgrim Homes, the 200-year-old Christian charity that runs the home and nine others, was taking legal action against the council for religious discrimination.
But now Brighton Council has backed down and promised to restore the £13,000 funding, used to support a warden, which it pulled after accusing the care home of “institutionalised homophobia”.
The case was backed by The Christian Institute’s legal defence fund.
The Council wanted the care home to ask its elderly Christian residents about their sexual orientation every three months, use images of homosexuals in its promotional literature and show a Stonewall presentation on ‘gay rights’ to staff.
Managers at the care home explained that to comply with the demands would unduly distress the elderly residents and undermine the home’s Christian ethos.
Residents at the Brighton home are made up of Christians aged over 80, including former missionaries and a retired church minister.
Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes said: “There was a strong feeling among people in the home that the questions were inappropriate and intrusive.
“They felt they had come to Pilgrim Homes because of its Christian ethos and were upset they were not protected from such intrusions.”
Responding to the settlement, Pilgrim Homes’ Chief Executive Andrew Jessop said, “I am delighted that we have been able to reach an amicable solution with Brighton and Hove Council and that our lost funding is to be restored.
“We will be receiving a letter from Brighton removing the allegation of “institutional homophobia”, together with the requirement that we should ask our residents about their ‘sexual orientation’ four times a year.
“We are willing to ask potential residents about their sexual orientation when they apply for a place at our home, on the understanding that they have the right to refuse, and that we will not be required to act in a way which goes against our doctrinal beliefs.
“We are a Christian organisation for older Christians, and our chief concern has always been to protect their best interests. Many have been missionaries or pastors, and when they come into residential care or even sheltered housing they deserve the peace, comfort and security of an organisation that supports their dearly-held religious beliefs.
“We do not think our Brighton home – and others like it – should be denied access to public funding just because of those beliefs. We would like to thank Brighton and Hove City Council for resolving this matter amicably out of court.
“We are relieved that we can give our complete attention to doing what we do best – serving our older brothers and sisters in Christ and meeting their needs in the best way we can.”
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “Elderly Christians shouldn’t be penalised just because of their religious beliefs.
“Christians pay their taxes too and they should have equal access to public grants without being required to drop their Christian ethos. I hope other councils take note.
He added: “There have been a number of recent cases where Christians are being treated less favourably than others. But Christians are beginning to find their voice and discovering that a lot of people – Christian or otherwise – are agreeing with them.
“Nurses, grandparents, firemen, registrars, adoption agencies, care homes are all finding themselves in the firing line for nothing more than hold the same harmless beliefs that Christians have had for 2,000 years.”
Tom Ellis of Aughton Ainsworth, solicitors for Pilgrim Homes, said the council had shown “a total disregard and lack of respect for orthodox Christian beliefs and values” when it decided to cut the funding.
“Pilgrim Homes has a right to provide its services within the context of its doctrinal belief without interference from the council.”