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Christian Magistrate Loses Freedom of Conscience Case

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Christian Magistrate Andrew McClintock has lost his case to have his freedom of conscience recognized when practising as a Justice of the Peace. The judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal was handed down by Mr Justice Elias on 31st October 2007.

The decision of the Court means that Mr McClintock, a committed Christian who became a Justice of the Peace in Sheffield in 1988, will not serve on the Family Panel.

Difficulties first arose for Mr McClintock when he considered the implications of same-sex adoption, arising from the Civil Partnerships Act 2002. He became concerned that a tension existed between his Christian beliefs in the Biblical model of the family and his work as a Magistrate sitting on the Family Panel. Mr McClintock raised his difficulties with the Chairman of the Family Panel at Sheffield. Mr McClintock was not asking for a change in the law, rather he was requesting that his religious conscience should be accommodated, and that he should be ‘screened’ from cases which might require him to place children in to same-sex households. He was told he could not be ‘screened’ from the case and so on 6th February 2006, Mr. McClintock resigned from membership of the Family Panel as, according to his beliefs, he was required to make judicial determinations incompatible with his statutory and common law duties and place already vulnerable children into same-sex households. Mr. McClintock sought clarification of how the new law on same-sex adoption corresponds to his primary statutory duty to act in the welfare of the child, when the scientific evidence of outcomes for such placements is so poor.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that there was no unlawful conduct of any kind by the Department of Constitutional Affairs based on the facts, and that Mr McClintock had not indicated that his objections were rooted in his religious belief. It was further decided that there was no discrimination on religious grounds. 

We make the following points:-

i) Mr McClintock was well known for 18 years as a Christian magistrate. ii) at all times Mr McClintock made known to his fellow Justices of Peace and officers of the Court that he was a Christian, and that he believes that it is in the best interests of children to be placed in a home where there is a father and a mother, following the biblical family model. Therefore, his concerns over same sex adoption would have been known to the Sheffield Bench.

The Appeal Tribunal commented that Mr McClintock resigned of his own free will, and that he was not encouraged to resign. It has not been recognised that Mr McClintock was left with no choice but to resign, as alternatively, he would have been faced with the dilemma of either breaking the law or going against his strongly held beliefs and he was seeking clarity on this.

The Tribunal failed to properly address the question of compatibility of the new law on same-sex adoption with the welfare of the child. It was asserted by the Department of Constitutional Affairs there was no clear evidence to show that it is in the best interests of children to be placed in the care of, or adopted by heterosexual couples. Andrew McClintock adduced evidence which is on the Court Record from the leading scientific research in the world on this matter that shows that it is in the best interests of children to be placed with a mother and father, and that children raised in same sex households have poor outcomes. For more read the witness statement of Dr Dean Byrd

The judicial oath, which Mr McClintock undertook, states that he must, “ right to all manner of People, after the laws and usage of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.” It was Andrew McClintock’s belief that to place a child into a same-sex home would not be ‘doing right’ to them. Andrew McClintock was seeking to uphold his judicial duty. When he took the Judicial Oath he made a promise before God that he would ‘do right’ by all people. The question we now have to ask is what can a person do when ‘doing right’ appears in conflict with the law of the land?

Andrew McClintock will appeal this decision. Paul Diamond represents him.

See Judgment –