litmus tests

Denying Foster Kids To Anti-Gays Parents: A Bad Choice?

This week England’s High Court upheld a Derby City Council decision to deny a Pentecostal couple’s right to foster kids. The reason? The older couple refused to tell their prospective kids that homosexuality is OK. And while Stonewall UK’s chief executive says he’s delighted at the high court’s decision, it’s not a complete win for the hundreds of thousands of international orphans currently in need of foster care.

According to 62-year-old Mrs. Eunice Johns, the Derby council asked her “Do you know you would have to tell [children] that it’s OK to be homosexual?” She responded, “I couldn’t do that because my Christian beliefs won’t let me. Morally, I couldn’t do that. Spiritually I couldn’t do that.” And since the state certifies couples to become foster parents, certifying Eunice and Owen Johns would have been a tacit endorsement of their anti-gay views.

But the queer response I’ve heard so far on this issue falls on one side, either celebrating that Christian couples are now being denied the right to care for children as gay couples have been denied for year or asking questions like “What if they got a gay kid?” and “Would you put a black kid with white supremacist parents?” Yes, its abhorrent to think of white supremacists and bible thumpers molding a new generation of gay-bashers and suicidal queers, but it also presumes that denouncing homosexuality will be high on a foster parents’ to-do list when dealing with kids damaged by sexual abuse, neglect, legal troubles, drug addiction, and mental and physical illnesses.

Eunice and Owen Johns find homosexuality immoral, but they aren’t the Phelps family. They’re an elderly couple who cared for about 15 foster kids through the 90s. And while Pentecostal Christianity may evoke all sorts of crazy fundamentalist beliefs like speaking in tongues, faith healing, and handling snakes, they also instill tenants of parental respect, hard work, and perseverance.

I’m not arguing that Pentecostals aren’t crazy: my own Pentecostal mom taught me never to trust white people, that demons come through the television to give you murderous thoughts, and that the government puts all our social security numbers in a giant computer called “The Beast” which will one day bring about the rise of the anti-Christ. And while that’s insane, she also gave me the love and support to gain an education and eventually realize on my own that she was bat-shit crazy. Yes it took lots of therapy, self-help books, and anti-depressants to pull through, but here I am writing for Queerty—see? Dreams really DO come true.

In a perfect world, all foster children would get raised by Claire Huxtable and Ward Cleaver, free from any prejudice. And while I’m against putting kids in unhealthy homes, if the alternative is leaving them to rot in a orphanage or a state run house, I’m not so convinced that refusing anti-gay people who make otherwise good parents is the ideal solution to the continuing needs of these abandoned kids.