25 March 2014, The Tablet

Last Catholic adoption agency wins appeal

The last Catholic adoption agency in Scotland has won the right to place children according to its Catholic ethos.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) announced last week that it will not challenge an appeal ruling that overturned the regulator’s decision to strip St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society of its charitable status.

The OSCR had argued that St Margaret’s breached equality legislation because it would only place children with Catholic couples who had been married for two years or more and wished to adopt within the framework of their faith.

But on 31 January the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel (SCAP) ruled that Glasgow-based St Margaret’s was entitled to place children according to church teaching because it could rely on legal exemptions in the Equalities Act 2010 that apply to religious organisations.

The decision, which followed a nine-month appeal by the adoption agency, overturned a previous OSCR ruling that the agency was discriminatory.

The OSCR’s decision not to appeal means that St Margaret’s can continue to operate as a Catholic adoption agency and is the only one left in Britain since the introduction of the equality legislation. A spokesman for the adoption agency, Ronnie Convery, said “everyone was relieved and glad”.

“The decision in favour of St Margaret’s was a unanimous one, and OSCR rightly acknowledges that it is unlikely that the Court of Session would decide to revisit it and an appeal would therefore be unlikely to succeed,” he added.

There are no Catholic adoption agencies remaining in England and Wales. Of the 12 that used to operate, nine agencies severed formal ties with the Church following the introduction of the Equality Act. Three others have stopped doing adoption work.

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