Friday, March 04, 2011

don't even think about it

A couple have lost their court case against Derby city council who decided they might be unsuitable to foster a child because, in answer to spurious questions in a contrived interview, they said they did not like homosexuality and they struggled to give the right answers when confronted with several hypothetical scenarios involving a child and sexual orientation.

Their view was based on their religious belief but, as the judge quite rightly ruled, this was not a question of deciding the comparative merits of religions, but whether or not their stance on this one issue could legitimately be taken into account by the local authority in determining how well the couple might treat and behave towards a child.

So forget the religious bit, as it can only complicate what is a quite straightforward issue. This is about whether parents or carers are entitled to hold views that might be considered politically incorrect, anti-diversity, narrow, outdated, or whatever; and whether such views would harm the upbringing of their children. And this is where the court should have ruled the other way, finding that the social services department was incorrect, anti-diversity, narrow and outdated in their belief that a child would grow up with any prejudice on the matter at all, just because the parents held a particular moral view.

Leaving aside the fact that the authority had no right to ask the questions about sexuality at all and shoud have focused only on whether the couple would be able to love, safeguard and nurture a child (which they have proved 15 times before that they can) and the fact that most candidates for fostering would have evaded the argument altogether by telling a fib or two (they certainly will now), what even politically correct, diverse and morally perfect social workers should be aware of is that a lot of kids actually don’t grow up with exactly the same thoughts, politics and morality as their mums and dads. They often go out of their way to adopt the opposite. Is that such a shock ?

Should foster parents have to prove themselves so much more acceptable to the thought police than most natural parents could possibly achieve ? Will local authorites go a few steps further and insist on an exam for couples seeking to start a family, with the courts wasting their time and money judging on appeals ? What would the correct answers be to the exam’s questions on war, abortion, pornography, the middle east, and bankers ?

This sad and ever so typical instance of political correctness gone crazy reflects an increasingly common misunderstanding. We are entitled to our moral stance on anything we choose; that’s partly why we have our own minds; what is wrong, and very wrong, is to take actions (or incite them) which harm or disadvantage people by discriminating against them on the basis of their religion, sexuality, ethnicity, disability and all the rest.

If we want to think then let us think. George Orwell is smiling and whispering ‘I told you so’.



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