Scottish Charity Regulator lambasted for caving in to Catholic Charity over gay adoption

The National Secular Society has written to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to complain that, if a newspaper report is correct, its actions have permitted the refusal of same-sex couples as prospective adoptees and that is against the intention of the law.

The Society's Director, Keith Porteous Wood, complained "that the Regulator has effectively enabled [St. Margaret's Children and Family Care Society] to exploit the law for a purpose for which it was not intended, and that it is against the interests of children seeking adoptive parents to restrict the pool of prospective adopters, let alone in a discriminatory way."

He added that "Catholic adoption agencies were given two years to implement Regulations introduced in 2007 and most of them in England and Wales have done so. A small number tried to exploit some loose wording in the regulations but to do so required a change to the wording of their governing documents, which needs the Regulator's permission. The English Regulator declined to give it, but reportedly the Scottish one has permitted a change to the wording."

"We have asked the Scottish regulator if they have approved the changes and if so, what those changes were, when they were approved and the details of any legal advice the Regulator took before permitting the change - in particular whether that change was in the public interest and conformed with public policy.

"The English Regulator turned down the change because the Catholic adoption agencies were 'seeking to re-argue a political battle that was fought and lost at the highest level' – the cabinet office table at No.10 Downing Street."

Mr Porteous Wood commented: "Scottish children needing adoptive parents should not have their chances of finding them limited simply because of the bigotry of those leading the Catholic Church, especially when the adoption agency is partly funded from the public purse."

NSS Letter to Scottish Charity Regulator

Re St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society Charity Number SC028551

Concern about this Charity’s adherence to Regulation 18 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007

I am writing this open letter following allegations in the press (Herald 31 May 2009) that St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society (Charity Number SC028551) has been permitted to refuse same-sex couples as prospective adoptees and that is against the intention of the law.

You will I am sure be aware that religious charities were exceptionally given around two years to comply with the Regulation 18 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 , and that this temporary concession expired on 1 January 2009. In England and Wales, the vast majority of Catholic adoption agencies, which receive public money, have done so.

Your counterpart regulator in England and Wales has wisely and fairly declined to permit the few charities that have sought to exploit loosely-worded positive action provisions in the Regulations, but this required a change of objects to provide services exclusively to heterosexual married couples, as shown below the last URL shown below. The [England and Wales’] Charity Commission's counsel argued that the English charity taking the same line as St Margaret’s was "seeking to re-argue a political battle that was fought and lost at the highest level".

I am writing to ask the Regulator formally:

1. What steps the Regulator has taken since the expiry of the temporary concession to establish whether Regulation 18 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 is being applied by religious adoption agencies on the Scottish Register.

2. Whether the newspaper report is correct that the Regulator has permitted a change to the governing documents of St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society and, if so, what those changes were, when they were approved and the details of any legal advice the Regulator took before permitting the change, in particular whether that change was in the public interest and conformed with public policy.

If the Regulator has permitted a change to St Margaret’s CFCS governing documents, the National Secular Society formally complains that the Regulator has effectively enabled the Charity to exploit the law for a purpose for which it was not intended, and that it is against the interests of children seeking adoptive parents to restrict the pool of prospective parents, let alone in a discriminatory way.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

K. Porteous Wood Executive Director