A Christian couple have agreed to abide by the local council policy on diversity, despite previously resigning as foster carers over a row about homosexuality.
65-year-old Vincent Matherick and his 61-year-old wife Pauline attracted the attention of the press when they stood down after six years of providing foster care, claiming that Somerset County Council was asking them to “promote” homosexuality.
They have now issued a joint statement with the council, signed the Equalities Promise and may be allowed to continue fostering.
“They have no problem in signing Somerset’s Equalities Promise, which includes an expectation not to discriminate unfairly for reasons of sex, marital status, caring responsibilities or sexual orientation,” said the statement.
“We all agree that the welfare of children is paramount. It is absolutely vital that people come forward as foster carers.
“This issue may have damaged the image of fostering at a time when vulnerable children need caring homes and Mr and Mrs Matherick join with Somerset County Council in encouraging people to consider fostering.”
The Daily Mail had reported that the Mathericks refused to sign the contract as they might have to tell children it is “good” to be gay and take them to gay association meetings if they are curious.
Both of them are ministers at the non-conformist South Chard Christian Church, near their home in Chard, Somerset.
In February this year a social worker met with the couple at their home and told them about its implementation of the Government’s new Sexual Orientation Regulations.
The rules, granted under the Equality Act 2006, make it illegal for the recipients of goods, services or public functions to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality.
The intention of the Equalities Promise is to ensure that foster carers are aware that they should not discriminate against children in their care.
Christian activist groups, who had campaigned for the Mathericks, claimed victory.
Andrea Williams of Christian Concern For Our Nation told The Times: “This is a significant step forward for Christian freedoms in that the council has agreed not to force Mr and Mrs Matherick to act against their Christian beliefs.”
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall, said that there had been no concessions granted to Christians by Somerset County Council.
“The Mathericks have agreed to abide by the law – no more and no less.
“It will be for Somerset to make appropriate decisions in the best interests of children – that was always what this case was about and not the publicity-seeking of a rather needy couple.”
It is not known if the Mathericks will continue to foster an 11-year-old boy who had been with them for two years.