After three years, a Christian couple rejected as “unsafe” to foster vulnerable kids will have their day in court. Byron and Keira Hordyk, a WA couple will be presenting their case before the State Administrative Tribunal in early December 2020 to contest a decision by Wanslea Community Services that they were unsafe to care for foster children because of their Christian beliefs about sexuality and gender identity.
This case provides an opportunity for Courts to restrain the ability of organisations to exclude Christians from contributions to the great needs in society in areas like foster care because they of their orthodox Christian beliefs.
The Tribunal hearing is set eight days starting on 1 December and ending with closing submissions scheduled for 15 and 16 December 2020. The Tribunal will hear evidence from both Byron and Keira, experts on religion and child psychology and from a range of Wanslea staff who were involved in the decision to reject the Hordyks’ application in 2017. Here is their story so far.
The Story So Far
Byron and Keira Hordyk love children and have three of their own (with a fourth on the way). As committed Christians, they are always looking for ways to be of service to others. Knowing that so many children are born into unstable and dangerous households, they desired to give to other children the same love and stability their own children enjoyed by becoming foster parents.
In January 2017, the Hordyks approached Wanslea to start the application process. The Hordyks were applying to provide short-term care to children between the ages of 0-6. Part of the application process involved the social workers asking a range of hypothetical questions about parenting, including case studies about how they would respond to a foster child who identified as LGBT. Being Christians, the Hordyks believe that God’s plan for sexuality is within marriage between a man and a woman. During the assessment from May and June 2017, they spoke openly about their Christianity with the agency.
As the issue of sexuality arose in the interviews, the Hordyks were surprised that the issue arose as they were applying to foster children in an age range where the issue of sexuality or gender simply doesn’t arise. Nevertheless, the Hordyks told Wanslea that they believed homosexuality was a sin but assured the foster agency that they would never reject a foster child of theirs who expressed same-sex attraction. They were also happy to concede that placing a child with sexuality issues to them would probably not be a good fit.
After hearing their views on homosexuality, Wanslea terminated the Hordyks’ application to be foster parents, telling the Hordyks that they were unable to provide a “safe” environment for a child due to their beliefs. The Hordyks were devastated. They had created a loving and stable household for their own children only to be told that they could not provide a “safe” household for a foster child in desperate need of the very love and support their home would offer.
The Hordyks considered that making affirmation of homosexuality a requirement for all prospective foster parents is completely unreasonable and discriminatory against many people with Christian faith, as well as many other faiths. The Hordyks believe that they can easily be matched to desperate children who need emergency and short-term care for infant and young children without their being any conflict between their religion and the particular sexuality and gender struggles of the foster children. Given the major shortages of good foster carers, and the increasing incidence of broken families and children needing care, it is in the best interests of vulnerable children and society to have as big an available pool of foster carers as possible. It is unreasonable to reject the Hordyks for all foster care because they may not be suitable to match with a very small minority group of children in the system.
The Importance of Christians in Foster Care
There is a desperate need for foster parents in Australia, with so many children needing refuge from abusive and unstable homes. The Hordyks’ religious commitment mean that they have an abundance of support from other families in their local church. Their foster children would not just have obtained the benefit of a loving family but also a loving community, and it is a tragic injustice that a child who otherwise would have been given that opportunity has now been denied it for purely political and ideological reasons.
Thousands of Australian children likely remain trapped in family situations of abuse and deprivation, desperate for the very love and stability that Christian foster carers could provide. If the behaviour of Wanslea and of other Foster Care agencies is allowed to stand unchallenged, it will cut off this vital avenue for Christians to show love to the vulnerable and be salt and light to the community around them.
Christians have a further advantage in raising children that comes from holding to a Biblical worldview, which looks upon every child (Christian or not) as made in the image of God and worthy of love, respect and care no matter how they identify or what issues they confront in their lives.
For all the above reasons, a wholesale barring of Biblically-faithful Christians from serving as foster carers would be disastrous for many young lives and for Australian society, and the Hordyks’ case will determine whether the Australian Courts will accelerate this discrimination by approving it, or halting it in its tracks by judging it unlawful.
What Can You Do
- PRAY – This is such an important case for the Hordyks and for Australia, and we need to ask for God’s gracious intervention. God is sovereign over everything that happens (Proverbs 16:33) and even over human rulers (Proverbs 21:21), and the most important preparation for this Hearing is for believers to approach God to ask for strength for the Hordyks and wisdom for their legal team.
- ENCOURAGE – If you know a Christian foster carer, encourage and pray for them as they honour God in that service. If you would like to write letters or emails of encouragement to the Hordyks (who have been in this struggle for over 3 years now) we know they would be grateful, any correspondence can be sent to [email protected]
- HELP – If you have the capacity and interest to take on foster care for a needy child and provide them with a loving Christian home and have considered it carefully, the time is ripe to begin.
In the event that the Hordyks are denied justice at the Tribunal and it is necessary for HRLA to appeal to a higher Court and further discrimination soaks into the foster care system in the meantime, it is important to take the opportunity to serve while it’s available. “While it is daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). In our experience, it is usually much easier for discriminatory foster carers to reject new applicants than to cut off existing applicants.