The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in favor of Catholic Social Services against the city of Philadelphia in a case that affirmed the organization’s right to exclude same-sex parents from fostering children.
The majority opinion for the court’s unanimous, 9 to 0 decision came from Chief Justice John Roberts, who said, “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the court joined in full by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Kavanaugh and Barrett. pic.twitter.com/1BarzLGtOt
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 17, 2021
CSS sued the city after it was excluded from the city’s foster care program due to its religious policy.
The decision noted, “Petitioner Catholic Social Services has contracted with the City to provide foster care services for over 50 years, continuing the centuries-old mission of the Catholic Church to serve Philadelphia’s needy children.”
Unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services foster care agency! “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
— Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanTAnd) June 17, 2021
It added, “CSS holds the religious belief that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Because CSS believes that certification of prospective foster families is an endorsement of their relationships, it will not certify unmarried couples — regardless of their sexual orientation — or same-sex married couples.”
The conclusion of the statement said, “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else. The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.
“In view of our conclusion that the actions of the City violate the Free Exercise Clause, we need not consider whether they also violate the Free Speech Clause.”
The decision is considered a victory for First Amendment advocates who support the religious exemption.
Breaking: The Supreme Court holds that Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services, despite its refusal to certify same-sex couples, violates the Free Exercise Clause. There are no dissents; Chief Justice Roberts writes the majority opinion. pic.twitter.com/lBHGeLix9O
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) June 17, 2021
Lambda Legal, a group opposing the decision, tweeted it is reviewing the ruling.
BREAKING: Lambda Legal’s team is currently reviewing the decision in Fulton v City of Philadelphia — the case involving taxpayer-funded organizations ability to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) June 17, 2021
The case began in March 2018 when the Catholic Social Services sued the City of Philadelphia for blocking it from helping children find foster homes because the organization had a policy of not giving children to homosexual couples.
The CSS contested Philadelphia’s refusal to renew its contract with it. The organization argued that refusing to provide foster children to same-sex couples because they are homosexual couples falls within its right to free exercise of religion and free speech, even if there is no other “reason related to their qualifications to care for children,” according to The Oyez Project.
The plaintiffs lost in two lower courts before petitioning the Supreme Court, which decided to hear the case in February last year, Time reported.
According to the Supreme Court’s ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia in the 1990 case of Employment Division v. Smith, Americans cannot claim exemptions to laws on the basis of religion “as long as those laws are neutral and generally applicable to everybody,” the outlet reported.
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