The Mayor of Derby is backing a Christian couple who are appealing against a decision that they were not suitable foster parents.

Eunice and Owen Johns approached the council about providing weekend respite care for children under 10.

They were rejected by an adoption panel after it emerged that Mrs Johns, a Sunday school teacher, wanted any children in their care to go to church on Sundays.

The Johns also refused to teach children that gay and lesbian relationships are normal, as required by gay equality laws.

The couple are seeking a judicial review of the adoption panel’s decision claiming they are being discriminated against because of their religion.

Conservative councillor Pauline Latham, who holds the ceremonial post of Mayor of Derby, has backed the Johns and attacked the Labour-controlled city council.

She told the Evening Telegraph:

“I think it is appalling. The council is appealing all the time for suitable foster carers. Here are a couple who come forward voluntarily who want to give respite care and they are rejected.

“I think they should be allowed to foster children, particularly when we are crying out for foster parents all the time. In my view it is completely wrong.

“I just think the rules are getting really ridiculous. I would like to raise the case with the chief executive. It will cost both them and the council a lot of money to go to judicial review.”

The Sexual Orientation Regulations will be tested if the case goes to judicial review.

They came into force last year and ensure that gay, lesbian and bisexual people are treated equally with regards to goods and services, including adoption.

Under the regulations a local council cannot refuse to place a child with a same-sex couple.

In this case Derby council has also checked that any child placed with foster parents such as a child who is the victim of homophobic bullying or a child from a same-sex family will be placed with people who do not have negative views of gay people.

Similar questions are asked about prospective foster parents’ views on race, for example.

Mrs Johns told the Daily Telegraph:

“I would love any child, black or white, gay or straight. But I cannot understand why sexuality is an issue when we are talking about boys and girls under the age of 10.”