Derby city council has defended its decision to ban a Christian couple from fostering because of their views on homosexuality.

Pentecostal Christians Eunice and Owen Johns were turned down as potential foster parents after they admitted they would tell a child that homosexuality was unacceptable.

They took the case to the High Court but judges Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beeston upheld the council’s decision and ruled that that the Johns’ views could harm foster children.

Derby city council’s director of specialist services, Katie Harris, has defended the decision not to approve them and said that they couple spoke about “turning” gay children.

In an assessment, the council quoted Mr Johns as saying he would try to “turn the child”.

Mr Johns said he did not remember making that statement but Ms Harris insisted that he did.

She told BBC Radio 4’s The Report programme: “If it had come out that we had approved somebody who had been caring for a child… and they had actually been found to be putting into practice what Mr Johns had described about ‘turning a child’, we would have been in great difficulty as the authority charged with caring for that child.”

She added: “To approve them – knowing we would never use them – that would have been the easiest thing to do. [But] is that honest, a valuable use of resources?”

Ms Harris said that the council had many foster carers who are Christians but said social workers felt the Johns’ active church presence could prohibit them from offering respite care at weekends.

The couple and their lawyer Paul Diamond have decided not to challenge the High Court’s decision.

Instead, they are pushing for a review of equality laws and are asking MPs to sign an ‘Equalities and Conscience Petition’ which calls on prime minister David Cameron to ensure that laws allow Christians to act on their consciences.