Both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail reported earlier this week about an evangelical Christian who’s been taken off the fostering register by her local authority after a sixteen-year-old girl, brought up as a Muslim, converted to Christianity and was baptised while in her care. The foster mother is now apparently considering legal action, presumably a judicial review alleging the council’s decision is unreasonable, perhaps bolstered by human rights and religious discrimination arguments.

It’s difficult for anyone to judge what’s happened here: none of us know exactly what happened and how difficult it was to discourage this girl from being baptised. None of us know what the foster carer said to the council about the girl’s conversion, or whether the council is right to have been “incandescent”, or has, as the Christian Institute alleges, overreacted here. So it’s too early to make definitive judgments. It seems at first glance a pity that this row has led to the loss of a foster carer when there is a national shortage of them, and when the girl is, after all, likely to be Gillick-competent to make up her own mind about religion. Religious groups do not own own children – personally I incline to the Richard Dawkins view that it’s quite wrong to talk about a “Muslim child” or a “Christian child” – so I see no special value in this girl’s being made or encouraged to “remain” a Muslim.

But it’s important to notice that we’re only hearing one side of this story. The local authority isn’t able to comment about a child who it appears is still in its care; it is unable to defend itself. And, crucially, this story is being brought to you by the Christian Institute – the people who previously brought us the meritless case of the registrar Lillian Ladele, who refused to do her job of carrying out civil partnerships and who somehow managed to win her claim of religious discrimination in the Employment Tribunal before sanity was restored on appeal.

Again, here, we have a council which has statutory duties to consider – here, the duty under section 33(6) of the Children Act not to cause a child in its care to change religion, which has not been made up by the council, but rather imposed on it by Parliament. Again we have an evangelical Christian paid by the council to help it carry out those duties and who, it seems, has failed to live up to the council’s expectations. And again here we have the Christian Institute funding her legal claim and gaining publicity for its campaign to persuade us that Christians are an oppressed group.

I don’t think this case is about religious freedom at all. The girl was and is free to believe what she likes and attend what church she likes. So is the former foster mother. What’s quite clear is that this woman has never been prevented from fostering because of her religion – indeed, the Christian Institute is keen to tell us she’s been fostering for ten years. But fostering is not a right. It’s a role people are carefully selected and approved to carry out for a local authority – which is, let’s not forget, the actual legal parent of a child in care – within the framework of legal duties which bind that authority. The council’s decision that it no longer has confidence in this foster carer may well be entirely justified once the full facts are known.

The real story behind all this is the growing, media-savvy campaign against secularism in the public realm that’s being led by organisations like the Christian Institute.