Irish Catholic Counselling Agencies Face Closure Over LGBT+ Discrimination

Catholic marriage counselling agencies could face closure if they don't agree to stop discriminating against LGBT+ couples.

Couple sit in a church wearing tie dye t-shirts

The Times has reported that the Irish government is threatening to withdraw millions of taxpayer euros if the counselling services do not change their policy which excludes same-sex couples from their services on religious grounds.

This means that groups such as Accord could be facing closure having already had their funding cut by more than 40% in the past three years.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is currently paying a minimum of €1.6 million to religious counselling groups that have policies that refuse to offer relationship and marriage counselling to LGBT+ couples.

Accord also gives relationship and sex education classes. The curriculum does not include education around contraception or homosexual relationships. They held classes in 400 schools in Dublin alone in 2016.

The agencies are funded by Tusla, the responsibility of which is the minister for children, Katherine Zappone.

Accord, a counselling service run by the Irish Catholic Bishops, received €1,593,000 in 2016, the most public funding awarded to any single counselling service in the state.

Accord has a formal national policy of not accepting gay and lesbian couples in its marriage counselling courses.

Tusla has developed a new service level agreement which includes a non-discriminatory policy that organisations must adhere to in order to receive funding.

“Tusla recognises the need to have all counselling service providers in the community and voluntary sector operating from the same service level agreement, and the importance of publicly funded services operating services which are accessible to everyone,” a spokeswoman said. “This is why Tusla advocated for the inclusion of this requirement in the 2018 service level agreement, to ensure that service providers who receive public money to deliver services abide by Ireland’s equality legislation.”

Fintan Warfield, the Sinn Féin senator, last night welcomed the change in policy. “It is wrong for public monies to be channelled at organisations who fail to serve all sections of our society,” he said. “Why would the state identify an organisation and task them with resolving relationship difficulties when that organisation fails to embrace the diverse realities of family life in Ireland, including LGBT relationships? Such public funding of religious counselling services should be stopped.”

Accord has yet to make a statement.

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