In R (Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service Ltd)) v The Office for Standards In Education, Children’s Services and Skills  EWHC 1679 (Admin), Cornerstone was an independent fostering agency charity based in the North East of England specialising in offering foster and permanent homes to children in the care of local authorities. Because it was founded on evangelical Christian principles, it would only recruit carers, staff and volunteers who would abide by its Statement of Beliefs and Code of Practice which, inter alia, required them to be evangelical Christians and to refrain from “homosexual behaviour” as described in the Code. In practice, the only potential carers whom Cornerstone accepted were evangelical Christian married couples of the opposite sex. It regarded any other form of sexual activity as sinful .
When Ofsted inspected Cornerstone in 2019, it concluded that Cornerstone’s recruitment policy violated various provisions of the Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention on Human Rights read with the Human Rights Act 1998. It required Cornerstone to change its policy. Cornerstone challenged Ofsted’s conclusions .
Four principal issues arose on the claim:
“a. whether Ofsted erred in concluding that Cornerstone’s carer recruitment policy breaches the Equality Act 2010 in respect of sexual orientation;
b. whether Ofsted erred in concluding that the Cornerstone’s practices breach the Human Rights Act 1998;
c. whether the Report (and the recommendations contained in the Report) breach Cornerstone’s rights under Articles 9, 10, 11 and 14 of the Convention as given effect by s 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998;
d. whether Ofsted failed to have regard to the guidance in the Social Care Common Inspection Framework (SCCIF): Independent Fostering Agencies (22 February 2017″ .
At , Julian Knowles J summarised his principal conclusions as follows:
a. It was not in dispute that Cornerstone’s recruitment policy was lawful under the Equality Act 2010 on the grounds of religious belief because the exemption for religious organisations in part  to Sch 23 to the Act allowed Cornerstone to recruit evangelical Christians exclusively.
b. However, Cornerstone’s recruitment policy was unlawfully discriminatory in breach of s.29(1) of the 2010 Act or, alternatively, s.29(6) (in both cases read with s.13 and/or s.19) insofar as it required applicants to refrain from “homosexual behaviour”: “The policy unlawfully discriminates, directly or indirectly, against gay men and lesbians” and the disapplication of the general exemption applied because Cornerstone was performing functions on behalf of public authorities pursuant to contract.
c. Cornerstone’s recruitment policy did not violate Article 14 ECHR read with Article 8 insofar as it required carer applicants to be evangelical Christians.
d. Cornerstone’s recruitment policy did violate Article 14 ECHR read with Article 8 insofar as it required carer applicants to be heterosexual because “its policy unlawfully discriminates against gay men and lesbians” .
e. Ofsted’s Report did not violate Cornerstone’s Convention rights under Articles 9 – 11 and Article 14 ECHR.
f. Ofsted’s Report was not unlawful as being in breach of the Social Care Common Inspection Framework (SCCIF): Independent Fostering Agencies(22 February 2017).
On 27 July, in R (Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service Ltd)) v The Office for Education, Children’s Services and Skills  EWHC 2031 (Admin), Julian Knowles J granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against his conclusions that
“Cornerstone’s recruitment policy discriminates directly and/or indirectly against gay men and lesbians, and that such treatment is not justifiable as being a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim, and that this conclusion does not breach Cornerstone’s Convention rights” .
He agreed that that conclusion raised issues of sufficiently general importance to warrant consideration by the Court of Appeal, but he refused permission on all the other grounds of appeal .