Can religious social workers practice affirmatively with LGBTQ service recipients? An exploration within the regulatory context

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Tensions between religious freedoms and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) rights have evolved from debates about sinful deviance to competing equality claims. There is a growing debate, originally in the US, but emerging in the UK, about whether religious social workers, particularly those holding fundamentalist Christian beliefs, can deliver affirmative, anti-oppressive services to LGBTQ people. This is important because over two-fifths of social workers identify as Christian and almost a quarter of UK charities, including those running community and residential care services for older people, are religious organisations. These concerns have been highlighted in a recent judicial review involving a social work student, Felix Ngole, who was expelled by the University of Sheffield for making homophobic comments on his Facebook page. The Court of Appeal ruled the University’s decision was procedurally flawed and had conflated religious prejudice with discrimination. This paper considers 70 online responses to a Community Care article written by Ngole, which highlight divided opinions within the social work profession. It critically interrogates, within regulatory contexts, whether it is possible to be both deeply opposed to LGBTQ people’s lives and yet work affirmatively and anti-oppressively with them. An urgent research agenda is proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-225
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Issue number2
Early online date11 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2022

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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

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