FOSTER CHILD TO BE REMOVED FROM CHRISTIAN COUPLE WHO REFUSE TO TEACH CHILD ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY
From This is London: "They are devoted foster parents with an unblemished record of caring for almost 30 vulnerable children.
But Vincent and Pauline Matherick will this week have their latest foster son taken away because they have refused to sign new sexual equality regulations.
To do so, they claim, would force them to promote homosexuality and go against their Christian faith.
The 11-year-old boy, who has been in their care for two years, will be placed in a council hostel this week and the Mathericks will no longer be given children to look after.
The devastated couple, who have three grown up children of their own, became foster parents in 2001 and have since cared for 28 children at their home in Chard, Somerset.
Earlier this year, Somerset County Council's social services department asked them to sign a contract to implement Labour's new Sexual Orientation Regulations, part of the Equality Act 2006, which make discrimination on the grounds of sexuality illegal.
Officials told the couple that under the regulations they would be required to discuss same-sex relationships with children as young as 11 and tell them that gay partnerships were just as acceptable as heterosexual marriages.
They could also be required to take teenagers to gay association meetings.
When the Mathericks objected, they were told they would be taken off the register of foster parents.
The Mathericks have decided to resign rather than face the humiliation of being expelled.
Mr Matherick, a 65-year-old retired travel agent and a primary school governor, said: "I simply could not agree to do it because it is against my central beliefs.
"We have never discriminated against anybody but I cannot preach the benefits of homosexuality when I believe it is against the word of God."
Mrs Matherick, 61, said they had asked if they could continue looking after their foster son until he is found a permanent home, but officials refused and he will be placed in a council hostel on Friday.
She said: "He was very upset to begin with. We are all very close, but he's a mature young man and he's dealing with it."
The couple, who have six grandchildren and one greatgrandchild, are both ministers at the nonconformist South Chard Christian Church.
When they first started fostering they took in young single mothers and their babies.
More recently they have been caring for children of primary school age.
Mr Matherick added: "It's terrible that we've been forced into this corner. It just should not happen.
"There are not enough foster carers around anyway without these rules.
"They were saying that we had to be prepared to talk about sexuality with 11-year-olds, which I don't think is appropriate anyway, but not only that, to be prepared to explain how gay people date.
"They said we would even have to take a teenager to gay association meetings.
"How can I do that when it's totally against what I believe?"
Religious campaigners say the couple are the latest victims of an equality drive which puts gay rights above religious beliefs.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have complained that the rules force them to overturn long-held beliefs.
The Mathericks are planning to fight their case in the courts with the backing of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship.
The same organisation is backing Christian magistrate Andrew McClintock who resigned from the family courts in a row over gay adoption.
He says he was forced to resign because he was not allowed to opt out of cases where he might have to send a child to live with gay parents.
The Mathericks' case comes at a time when there is a chronic shortage of foster parents, who work on a voluntary basis.
An extra 8,000 are needed to plug the gaps in the service.
Researchers have found that continually moving children from home to home can have a devastating impact on their education and general welfare.
But a report last year revealed that the shortage of carers meant that some children in care are being forced to move up to three times a year.
David Taylor, Somerset County Council's corporate director for children and young people, said: "No decision has been made about the deregistration of Mr and Mrs Matherick.
"The council is committed to promoting the interests of children and young people and welcomes foster carers from all backgrounds and faiths."