A former vicar has been banned from fostering children after refusing to allow gay couples in his home.

John and Colette Yallop, of Blackburn, Lancashire, applied to be foster parents but told the local council that having gay couples in their home could harm their family life.

It is usual for prospective adoptive parents to visit foster carers for the handover process before children are found new homes.

The couple claimed that their five-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son would be confused by a same-sex couple and they did not want to answer their children’s questions on the issue.

Mr Yallop, 62, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are not homophobic and have worked alongside gay people, but we believe inviting gay couples into our home for the handover process might be detrimental to our family life and our young children.

“Even if we disagree with the rights of gay couples to adopt because it goes against our Christian beliefs, it doesn’t make us bad foster parents.”

He said he told social workers he would allow a single gay person into his home or would agree to handovers with gay couples taking place at a children’s centre instead.

Mr Yallop admitted he was “no saint”, after having to resign as a Church of England minister for cheating on his first wife.

But he said that 20 years as a vicar and his work to help mentally ill people would make him a good foster parent.

The couple received a letter from Lancashire county council telling them their application to foster was being terminated because of their views.

They are expected to appeal the decision and are being assisted by the Christian Legal Centre, which frequently represents Christians accused of homophobic discrimination.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the centre, said: ‘We will be supporting John and Colette Yallop in legal action.

“It is vital that as Christians we are allowed to live out our faith in public and not be eliminated from this kind of vital community work due to oppressive equalities legislation.

“Christian beliefs on marriage and the family produce wonderful, vibrant communities and we need to have the confidence to speak about this and live out our faith.”