A Christian paediatrician was dismissed from her role on an adoption panel over her belief that children should not be placed with same-sex couples, a tribunal has been told.
Dr Sheila Matthews, who sat on an adoption panel for Northamptonshire County Council, lost the job when she asked to abstain from voting in cases where homosexual couples were planning to adopt because of her religious beliefs, it was claimed.
The 50-year-old, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, said she felt that children “do best” with heterosexual parents.
Martin Pratt, the council’s former head of services for children, young people and families, said the authority wrote to Dr Matthews in April last year to terminate her position on the panel after she told him she was unable to set aside her beliefs on the issue of same-sex couples.
He told an employment tribunal sitting in Leicester: “I asked her whether she could consider applicants on their merits … and she said she could not. She did not believe it was in the interests of the child to be adopted by a same-sex couple. She felt that she could not vote or participate in the panel.”
Mr Pratt, who now works for Luton Borough Council, added: “She said she had a religious objection and made reference to there being some research. Both of these were part of Dr Matthews’ reasoning for her decision. Primarily it was a religious matter, I think. Her inability to act fully in her capacity posed a serious problem. The claimant’s position was in the direct contradiction to the respondent’s policies.”
Dr Matthews is bringing a claim of religious discrimination against the council.
In a statement released by the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting her, she said: “I understand that legislation permits same-sex couples to adopt and they are positively encouraged to apply, but I have professional concerns, based on educational and psychological evidence, of the influences on children growing up in homosexual households and I feel this is not the best possible option for a child.
“I do not consider myself to be homophobic, however I believe that children do best in families with a father and mother playing different roles in a child’s upbringing and committed to each other in a lifelong relationship.”
She added: “I believe it could have been possible for the county council to have allowed me to continue working as medical advisor and bring my commitment and experience to the job but also allow me discretely to abstain from voting in less than one in 20 cases. My view arose from both a professional one from my reading of the literature, and a historical Christian perspective of relationships, based on the Bible, an authority which our court system still uses today to swear in those giving evidence and juries, based on its authority.”