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Religious beliefs at centre of Christian couple’s dispute with child services agency

By 
  • February 11, 2019

OTTAWA – The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has warned an Ontario child services agency it could face legal action for discriminating against a Christian couple.

The Centre says it has a legal precedent in its favour, after a win last March before the Ontario Superior Court in the so-called Easter Bunny case involving Derek and Frances Baars, a Christian couple who lost the children under their care because they refused the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton instructions regarding the Easter Bunny.

“The precedent created in that Hamilton case states that the child welfare agencies cannot discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive parents on the basis of religious belief, which is what the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society did with the evangelical couple that was not prepared to tell their foster children the Easter Bunny was real, based on their convictions,” said John Carpay, president of the JCCF.

The JCCF sent a legal demand letter Jan. 22 to the Simcoe Muskoka Child, Youth and Family Services on behalf of another Ontario couple, who wish to remain anonymous, saying the agency “unlawfully dismissed L. and A.’s application, not due to any legitimate deficiency in their qualifications, but solely to Child Services’ prejudice and bias against the religious beliefs of the (couple).”

The JCCF’s counsel, Jay Cameron, requested Simcoe Muskoka Child Services “reverse its religious discrimination” against the couple or face legal action.

A spokesperson for the agency said it can’t discuss individual cases but it has a “rigorous process of assessment.”

During interviews last spring, the agency’s interviewer told the husband L.  prospective parents would only be approved if they agreed not to spank the foster children or their own children, the letter said.  L. considered this an “overreach,” but agreed not to spank either his own or the foster children. L., a pastor, was then asked about his religious beliefs. 

“She asked him if his church was a ‘fundamental’ church that ‘still believes in some of the more outdated parts of the Bible,’ ” the letter said.  L. said “his church believes and adheres to all the parts of the Bible.”

The interviewer told him her son is gay and “that he had been told by churches in the past that homosexuality is a sin.”

L. responded that while “the Bible does identify homosexual behaviour as ‘sin’, he believes all people are created in the image of God and are worthy of respect, dignity and honour,” and that “he and his wife would provide any child in their care with unconditional love, respect and compassion regardless of the child’s sexuality.”

While the interview with A. involved questions that were “less prejudicial,” the couple felt afterwards “their sincerely-held religious beliefs were odious” to the interviewer, the letter said.

The couple did not hear back from Child Services until October 2018, when the agency told them it was closing the couple’s file. The letter quotes the agency telling the prospective parents: “We also wanted to let you know that we feel that the policies of our agency do not appear to fit with your values and beliefs.”

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