Supreme Court to Decide Whether Faith-Based Foster Agencies Can Decline to Place Children in Same-Sex Homes

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will hear the case of Fulton v. Philadelphia, an appeal that will decide whether or not faith-based foster and adoption agencies nationwide may decline to place children in same-sex households, or whether states and municipalities have a right to force them to comply with non-discrimination laws under the threat of losing their license.

“The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted,” the court simply wrote.

“We are so grateful that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear our case and sort out the mess that Philadelphia has created for so many vulnerable foster children,” remarked plaintiff Toni Simms-Busch in a statement. “I don’t think I could have gone through this process without an agency that shares my core beliefs and cares for my children accordingly.”

But homosexual advocates expressed trepidation about what the court might conclude, as the outlet Slate wrote that if the court rules in favor of exempting faith-based foster care, it would essentially “oblige every city and state to excuse religious people and businesses from laws they dislike.”

“LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws like Philadelphia’s would become optional for those whose faiths condemn same-sex relationships and gender transition,” it stated. “Small businesses and giant corporations alike could deny service to LGBTQ people and discriminate against LGBTQ employees. Hospitals, doctors, and pharmacy employees could refuse to provide contraception.”

It is not clear why those involved in homosexuality or other unbiblical lifestyles would purposefully and specifically seek to utilize a faith-based agency rather than a secular child placement organization. The law firm Becket, which is representing the plaintiffs, notes that “for the over 100 years CSS had served the City, not a single same-sex couple had sought foster care certification from CSS.”

As previously reported, the matter began in 2018 when the Philadelphia Department of Human Services decided to suspend its partnership with Catholic Social Services (CSS) after learning via an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the agency does not place children in same-sex households.

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The issue was not about CSS initially, but a news lead surrounding Bethany Christian Services. Two lesbians told the Inquirer that after contacting Bethany, they were provided with referrals and advised that the organization had never placed children in homes without both a mother and father.

In reporting on the occurrence, the Inquirer decided to also reach out to Catholic Social Services to ask about its practices. They were informed that the entity likewise doesn’t place children with two men or two women — but had never been approached by anyone in a same-sex relationship.

Both organizations were consequently placed under investigation and further placements of any kind were halted. Philadelphia City Council also passed a resolution to look into the Department of Human Services’ policy on working with agencies that decline to place children with homosexuals.

While Bethany Christian Services decided to comply with Philadelphia’s non-discrimination ordinance in order to retain its contract, which means that it agreed to work with homosexuals seeking to foster or adopt children, Catholic Social Services sued the City of Philadelphia over the matter.

“Catholic Social Services works with parents like Ms. Paul, who, in her 40-plus years of foster work, has fostered more than 130 children, adopted six children, and received a Foster Parent of the Year award from the City,” the complaint noted.

Cecilia Paul is one of the co-plaintiffs in the case.

“Mrs. Paul wants to foster more children, and she has worked with CSS for the past 46 years. Mrs. Paul also chose to work with Catholic Social Services so that she could raise her foster children consistent with her own religious values,” the legal challenge stated. “By preventing Mrs. Paul from working with Catholic Social Services for her next foster child, Defendants are preventing Mrs. Paul from fostering children at all, infringing her liberty interests to have a family relationship protected by the Constitution.”

In July 2018, U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker denied Catholic Social Services’ request for an injunction, including among her reasons, “in the context of foster care and adoption, DHS and Philadelphia have a legitimate interest in ensuring that the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents and resource caregivers.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Tucker, stating that “[t]he City stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its non-discrimination policies when administering public services.”

“And while CSS may assert that the City’s actions were not driven by a sincere commitment to equality but rather by antireligious and anti-Catholic bias …, the current record does not show religious persecution or bias,” wrote Judge Thomas Ambro on behalf of the three-judge panel. “Instead, it shows so far the City’s good faith in its effort to enforce its laws against discrimination.”

CSS decided to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to take up the matter during its next session in the fall.

As previously reported, while the Third Circuit ruled against CSS, a federal judge in Michigan ruled in September in favor of another Catholic agency and against Attorney General Dana Nessel, stating that she had engaged in “a targeted attack on a sincerely held religious belief” in prohibiting State-contracted foster and adoption agencies from operating in accordance with their convictions.

“What St. Vincent has not done and will not do is give up its traditional Catholic belief that marriage as instituted by God is for one man and one woman,” wrote Judge Robert Jonker. “Based on that belief, St. Vincent has exercised its discretion to ensure that it is not in the position of having to review and recommend to the State whether to certify a same-sex or unmarried couple, and to refer those cases to agencies that do not have a religious confession preventing an honest evaluation and recommendation.”

In light of the various cases and requests for help, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule in November that would provide protections for faith-based foster and adoption agencies that otherwise might lose federal grant funds for operating in accordance with their religious convictions.

“The proposed rule represents the Trump Administration’s strong commitment to the rule of law — the Constitution, federal statutes, and Supreme Court decisions. These require that the federal government not infringe on religious freedom in its operation of HHS grant programs and address the impact of regulatory actions on small entities,” HHS stated in a press release.

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