City requires church organization to change beliefs to meet LGBT demands
The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to overrule Philadelphia’s demand that Catholic Foster Services place children with gay and lesbian parents.
A petition filed Monday by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty argues the church non-profit has a First Amendment right to place children according to its religious beliefs about family.
“As the city of Philadelphia attempts to shamelessly score political points, dozens of beds remain empty and children are suffering the consequences,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which is defending Catholic Social Services.
“It’s time for the Supreme Court to weigh in and allow faith-based agencies to continue doing what they do best: giving vulnerable children loving homes,” she said.
The case is on behalf of foster mothers Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who say they are standing up for faith-based foster agencies and foster children in need of a home.
“Catholic Social Services has been serving the foster children of Philadelphia and their families since 1917, long before the city got involved,” said Becket. “Ms. Fulton was a longtime foster parent who fostered more than 40 children with the help of Catholic Social Services, and Ms. Simms-Busch is a former social worker in the foster care system who recently decided to become a foster and adoptive parent herself.”
Simms-Busch said that as a social worker, she evaluated the quality of care provided by the foster agencies in Philadelphia.
“When I decided to become a foster parent myself, I chose to go through the agency that I trusted the most,” she said. “The consistency, integrity, and compassion of Catholic Social Services has made all the difference in my journey through the foster care process.”
WND reported the city cut off the foster homes in the CSS program even while it was making an urgent call for 300 new foster parents for the more than 6,000 children in Philadelphia foster care.
The request to the high court for review explains, “The city of Philadelphia chose to exclude a religious agency from the city’s foster care system unless the agency agreed to act and speak in a manner inconsistent with its sincere religious beliefs about marriage.”
The case centers on whether or not “a government violates the First Amendment by conditioning a religious agency’s ability to participate in the foster care system on taking actions and making statements that directly contradict the agency’s religious beliefs.”
The petition explains: “On any given day, over 400,000 children are in foster care nationwide. More than 100,000 of those children are awaiting adoption. Because the government cannot find enough foster and adoptive families on its own, it has historically relied on private groups and faith-based agencies.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the decision below threatens the future of Catholic foster and adoption agencies throughout the country. In Boston, San Francisco, Buffalo, the District of Columbia and the state of Illinois, Catholic charities have already been forced out of foster care and adoption.”
The dispute provides “an important opportunity” for the Supreme Court to “apply the First Amendment to a post-Obergefell system in which same-sex marriage co-exists with the ‘proper protection’ owed to ‘religious organizations.’”
In the 2015 Obergefell case, the justices created same-sex marriage, even though the ruling was described by the chief justice as being unconnected to the Constitution.
It said last year it would not immediately order the city to resume placing children with Catholic Social Services while the litigation continued.
Three justices dissented: Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas.
It was U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker who originally said the city could order the Catholics to place foster children with same-sex foster parents in violation of their religious beliefs.
CSS argued in court that the city’s “vindictive conduct will lead to displaced children, empty homes, and the closure of a 100-year-old ministry.”
WND reported when CSS explained to the lower court the city made clear that the religious beliefs of CSS “would not be an acceptable basis for Catholic’s unwillingness to provide a written certification regarding a [same-sex] couple’s relationship and to approve that couple for foster care.”
“The city’s rhetoric further reveals that the goal of its actions is to force Catholic to change its beliefs such as the statements that it’s ‘not 100 years ago anymore’ and ‘times are changing’ and Catholic’s religious beliefs should change, too,” the court filing said.
CSS charged the city’s policy is motivated by religious hostility.
“What justice is there in taking stable, loving homes away from children? If the city cuts off Catholic Social Services from foster care, foster moms like me won’t have the help and support they need to care for special-needs kids,” said Fulton. “I have relied on Catholic Social Services for support for years, and the city is taking away this help and causing harm and heartache to countless families like mine.”
CSS said the dispute appears to be personal.
“The city has targeted Catholic Social Services because of its religious beliefs. City officials have been open about their disagreement with Catholic teaching on marriage and their personal animosity toward the archdiocese,” the complaint stated.