Not unlawful for a Roman Catholic adoption agency to reject same-sex couples

19 March 2010 by

Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v Charity Commission for England and Wales (Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening) [2010] EWHC 520 (Ch)

The High Court have found that a Roman Catholic adoption agency (Catholic Care) could rely on regulation 18 of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 in refusing same-sex couples adoption services.

Paragraphs [98]-[99] of the judgment:

Miss Mountfield for the EHRC sought to persuade both the Tribunal and me that no purpose incompatible with the Human Rights Convention could ever be for the public benefit, so that no body which existed for the pursuit (inter alia) of such a purpose could be exclusively charitable. For the reasons given in paragraphs 66 to 71 of its Preliminary Decision, the Tribunal was disinclined to accept that submission, although it did not find it necessary finally to rule upon it. A particular obstacle was, in the Tribunal’s view, constituted by the fact that charities were not public bodies, so that to enforce strict compliance with the Convention by a re-definition of the boundaries of charitable status might extend the ambit of the Convention in an unintended direction.

For the purposes of ruling on the preliminary issue it is not necessary for me finally to decide this point either. The essentially public (rather than private) benefit which underlies the concept of charity leaves me less concerned than was the Tribunal about the notion that an acceptance of Miss Mountfield’s submission might extend the Convention beyond its proper field. Nonetheless the relatively brief argument on this point left me unsure that a precise equation between the definition of charitable status and justification under Article 14 (where the potential obstacle was the differential treatment of the recipients of benefits) would not give rise to unintended and inappropriate consequences. It is sufficient for my purposes to conclude, as I do, that the public benefit requirement inherent in charitable status would be sufficient in most such cases to prevent Regulation 18 having a scope that made it incompatible with Convention rights, precisely because of the large public dis-benefit likely to flow from any unjustified, and therefore discriminatory, differential treatment.


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