On 19 August the Charity Commission announced its decision not to consent to the request from the charity Catholic Care to amend its charitable objects to restrict its adoption services to heterosexual prospective parents only. This followed a High Court judgment in March 2010 to allow an appeal by the charity against a decision of the Charity Tribunal made in June 2009, which had upheld the Commission’s earlier decision not to agree to a change of the charity’s objects.
The polling company YouGov has followed up this announcement with a straw poll among its own online panellists, a brief report on which was released on 24 August. See:
The Commission’s verdict received much support from the 969 YouGov panellists who responded, with many arguing that ‘sexual orientation does not determine whether you are a good parent’. However, a significant minority did sympathize with Catholic Care’s desire to limit on religious grounds services which it provided to gay people. Some justified their view through their religious beliefs, while others felt that, in order to develop fully, children need both male and female ‘parents’.
For a more scientific test of public opinion on the issue, we have to go back to the beginning of 2007 when the Equality Act had just made it illegal to refuse to place children for adoption with gay couples. Three more representative polls were conducted at that time. YouGov’s found Britons split on an exemption of Catholic adoption agencies from the rule (42% in favour and 43% against). Populus recorded a higher level of support (55%) for the exemption of church groups as a whole (Catholic ones not being specifically mentioned), while ICM found that 63% considered it wrong for the Government to stop Churches setting their own policies in this area.
None of these polls included breaks by religious affiliation. However, British Social Attitudes Survey data from 2008 demonstrate that negative attitudes to homosexuality correlate with strength of religiosity. Whereas 34% of British adults overall felt that homosexual sex was always or almost always wrong, the proportion was only 19% among the irreligious but 50% among the religious, with 35% for the intermediate category of ‘fuzzy faithful’. Interestingly, Roman Catholics (albeit many of them doubtless very nominal) were the least hostile towards homosexuality of all the principal religious groups (31%).