Ex-vicar banned from being a foster parent after refusing to let gay couples visit his home
By Christine Challand and Jonathan Petre
A former vicar and his wife have been barred from becoming foster parents after saying they did not want gay couples who are considering adopting to meet them in their own home.
John and Colette Yallop told the local council that, if approved as foster parents, they would be ready to help same-sex couples adopt children and would be happy for a gay person to visit on their own.
But they said they would rather meet such couples at a children’s centre than in their family home to avoid awkward questions from their own young son and daughter.
However, Lancashire County Council said it could not make exceptions to its equality and diversity policies.
Mr Yallop, 62, said: ‘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.
‘We don’t want to have to explain to our five-year-old daughter or seven-year-old son why a youngster we’ve been caring for has two mummies or daddies.
‘We accept council policies on equality and diversity. 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.
‘I suspect we’re not alone in believing children thrive where there is a mummy and a daddy, rather than two parents of the same sex. Nevertheless, this is a personal belief that doesn’t affect our ability to care for and love a foster child.’
Mrs Yallop, 43, said they told a social worker assessing them that they would happily have a single gay person or one partner of a gay couple as prospective parents in their home, or hand over a foster child at a centre.
‘This was something our social worker suggested we put in writing to the council. Then she said our application was being refused because of our views. We were shocked and upset.’
The couple, who have been married for nine years, said they had been told in an initial assessment they would be ideal.
A council spokesman said: 'People who wish to foster must be open to working alongside all approved adopters' - including gay and lesbian couples
But the council’s Fostering Recruitment and Assessment Team wrote to the Yallops last month to say their assessment was to end because of the couple’s views about their ‘ability to work with particular groups of people (in particular gay and lesbian people)’.
The letter said the request to meet gay couples outside home would ‘greatly affect the child’s experience of the introduction to adopters or carers and would potentially affect the success of their placement’.
‘We started the process of applying to foster newborn-to-four-year-old children in March,’ said Mrs Yallop.
‘We had interviews and completed a three-week course. It means a lot to us to give a child a start in life and seems unfair we are now being discriminated against because of our honesty.’
Mr Yallop, the manager of St Barnabas Church and Community Centre in Blackburn, said they felt it was the right time to foster because of the age of their own children.
‘We knew the assessment process would be intrusive,’ he said. ‘I’m no saint, having had to resign as a Church of England minister after committing adultery while married to my first wife.
'And I was a bit of a tearaway when I was younger. I knew the details of my going to jail for stealing would come out.
'But after 20 years as a vicar and then a support worker for people with mental health problems, I feel I’d have a lot to offer as a foster carer.’
County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: ‘We must operate within relevant legislation and the council’s equality and diversity policy, which both rule out discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
'People who wish to foster must be open to working alongside all approved adopters to give the transition the best chance of success.’
But Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting the couple, said: ‘The Yallops have a loving family home to offer vulnerable children. It is not the homosexual community being discriminated against but the Christian community.’
The couple are expected to appeal against the council’s decision.