Allow us to exclude gay people, Catholic adoption charity tells Charity Tribunal

Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) wants to invoke clause in new rules on discrimination

A Catholic children's charity has told the Charity Tribunal the Charity Commission should allow it to follow the church's teachings on what constitutes a family.

Mark Wiggin, chief executive of Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds), told the first full hearing of the tribunal there had been an "unfortunate clash" between the right of Catholic adoption agencies to follow church teachings and the right of same-sex couples to adopt.

The charity wants to redraw its objects so it can exclude same-sex couples from using its services.

New rules on discrimination include a clause that the charity believes entitles it to discriminate against gay people.

Wiggin said Catholic Care would close its adoption service, which specialises in selecting and preparing parents to adopt children from disadvantaged backgrounds, rather than break its links with the church as a number of other adoption charities have done.

His counsel told the tribunal, chaired by president Alison McKenna and two other legal members, that Catholic Care needed to be able to discriminate in order for it to provide public benefit because without its links with the church it would lose funding, trustees and access to a network of religiously motivated parents who wanted to adopt.

He said the church was a legally recognised religion that held "genuine, sincere and doctrinal" beliefs.

But the Charity Commission's counsel argued that the charity was "seeking to re-argue a political battle that was fought and lost at the highest level". He said the same arguments had been made to Parliament and the Cabinet when the new rules on discrimination were debated in 2007.

"The commission isn't trying to be excessively legalistic or blind to the sincerity of charities' views but this is a legal process and the tribunal and commission are here to apply the rules as it interprets them," he said.

There is no official time limit for issuing judgements, but the tribunal aims to issue them within 21 days.

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