The Supreme Court ruled unanimously, 9-0, Thursday in favor of a Catholic foster care agency that was cut off by the city of Philadelphia for refusing to violate its religious beliefs fostering with same-sex couples.
In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, SCOTUS ruled that the city’s 2018 refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) unless it agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents was unconstitutional.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented CSS foster moms Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, celebrated the decision in a series of tweets.
“This is a huge victory for heroic foster moms and for religious freedom,” the group wrote. “It ensures that religious groups like Catholic Social Services—who serve kids regardless of their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation—can continue their great work.”
WATCH THIS VIDEO DISCUSSING THE CASE FROM BECKET:
The Catholic foster care agency has been doing work in the city for 200 years. While Bethany Christian Services changed its policy to comply with the pro-LGBTQ rule, CSS, an extension of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, took the city to court.
“Today’s landmark ruling tells the City to stop targeting Catholic Social Services and to let foster parents like Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch go back to serving foster kids,” Becket added.
“As far as the record reflects, no same-sex couple has ever approached CSS, but if that were to occur, CSS would simply refer the couple to another agency that is happy to provide that service—and there are at least 27 such agencies in Philadelphia,” Justice Alito wrote.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys argued the city can’t discriminate against CSS in a friend-of-the-court brief filed on behalf of faith-based adoption and foster-care providers in New York and Michigan.
““Every child in need of a forever home deserves the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family. That’s what it means to keep kids first,” ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner said. “The government can’t single out people of certain beliefs to punish, sideline, or discriminate against them. We’re grateful for the good decision today consistent with that principle.”
Waggoner encourages the Supreme Court to now take up the religious freedom question pending for years in Arlene’s Flowers, the case of Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman.
“As the Supreme Court wrote in its Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, which I argued on behalf of cake artist Jack Phillips, it is not ‘the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive,’” she said. “Despite that, Jack has been sued twice more, Barronelle continues to live with the threat of losing her business and life savings, and numerous others exist with the looming possibility of unconstitutional government coercion and punishment, all because they won’t act contrary to their faith and conscience. The Supreme Court’s intervention is sorely needed to end this abuse of power.”
First Liberty Institute also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of Galen Black, a plaintiff from the landmark 1990 Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith.
Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty president, CEO, and chief counsel, called it a tremendous victory for religious liberty.
“Punishing religious organizations for acting consistently with their sincerely held religious beliefs is wrong,” Shackelford said. “The Court ensured that religious adoption providers can continue their centuries-old work serving families and children without suffering government discrimination because they believe that the best home for a child includes a mother and father.”
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