1st Amendment Victory: SCOTUS Strikes Down Philadelphia Law Forcing Same-Sex Adoption at Catholic Org

SCOTUS
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

HANNAH BLEAU 17 Jun 2021

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Thursday unanimously overturned a lower court ruling regarding the City of Philadelphia barring foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services due to its unwillingness to endorse same-sex couples.

In a 9-0 judgment, SCOTUS held that the City of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It came about after Philadelphia stopped foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on the basis of its beliefs and practices on traditional marriage.

“Philadelphia took this extraordinary action not in response to any legal violation, nor in response to any complaint it received, but because of CSS’s religious beliefs and practices regarding marriage, which City officials read about in the local paper,” the petitioner’s brief reads, noting the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Philadelphia, considering the city’s actions “neutral.”

“The City will renew its foster care contract with CSS only if the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples. The question presented is whether the actions of Philadelphia violate the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, in which he ultimately determined the city’s action did so.

The city’s actions, he wrote, “burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” noting the city’s dissent of that opinion.

“In its view, certification reflects only that foster parents satisfy the statutory criteria, not that the agency endorses their relationships. But CSS believes that certification is tantamount to endorsement. And religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection,” he wrote.

Central to Philadelphia’s defense was that the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith held that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment applies when the government discriminates against religion, not to laws that generally apply to everyone regardless of religion. The city points out that under its anti-discrimination law, the Fair Practices Ordinance, everyone has to treat same-sex marriages the same as traditional marriages, and says that makes it a neutral law of general application.

The Court ultimately rejected the city’s argument that CSS’s practice violated a section of “its standard foster care contract, determining that the provision is not generally applicable as required by Smith.”

Roberts, in his opinion, determined that the city offered “no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others.”

“As Philadelphia acknowledges, CSS has long been a point of light in the City’s foster care system. 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,” Roberts wrote.

“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,” he added.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, concurred in the Court’s judgment only, determining that Philadelphia issued “an ultimatum to an arm of the Catholic Church: Either engage in conduct that the Church views as contrary to the traditional Christian understanding of marriage or abandon a mission that dates back to the earliest days of the Church — providing for the care of orphaned and abandoned children.”

“There can be no doubt that Philadelphia’s ultimatum restricts CSS’s ability to do what it believes the Catholic faith requires,” he wrote.

But they also took their views a step further, determining that the case serves as the latest example of Smith acting as a plague on the Constitution, triggering mounting issues in religious liberty cases. As such, he wrote, the Court should overrule Smith “without further delay.”

“This decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops. The City has been adamant about pressuring CSS to give in, and if the City wants to get around today’s decision, it can simply eliminate the never-used exemption power. If it does that, then, voilà, today’s decision will vanish — and the parties will be back where they started,” he asserted, noting the Court should “reconsider Smith without further delay,” as its interpretation of the Free Exercise clause is “hard to defend” and cannot be “squared with the ordinary meaning of the text of the Free Exercise Clause or with the prevalent understanding of the scope of the free-exercise right at the time of the First Amendment’s adoption.”

Gorsuch also wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment, joined by Thomas and Alito.

“As Justice Alito’s opinion demonstrates, Smith failed to respect this Court’s precedents, was mistaken as a matter of the Constitution’s original public meaning, and has proven unworkable in practice,” he said, noting many of their colleagues seek to “sidestep” the greater questions regarding Smith, unanimously ruling in favor of CSS but refusing to address Smith and its implications today.“Smith committed a constitutional error. Only we can fix it. Dodging the question today guarantees it will recur tomorrow. These cases will keep coming until the Court musters the fortitude to supply an answer,” he wrote. “Respectfully, it should have done so today.”

The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/06/17/scotus-unanimous-philadelphias-refusal-place-foster-children-catholic-social-services-violates-first-amendment/


AUDIO SCOTUS LGBT Decision Will ‘Create a Tsunami of New Litigation’ Against Religious Groups

ROBERT KRAYCHIK 15 Jun 2020

The Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) reinterpretation of a federal prohibition against employment discrimination based on sex — which now includes sexual orientation and “gender identity” — will “create a tsunami of new litigation” against religious organizations, explained Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, offering her remarks on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour.

The Supreme Court’s legal redefinition of “sex” to include sexual orientation and “gender identity” opens the door for further left-wing lawfare against religious organizations, Severino noted.

Severino said, “The Supreme Court left a lot of really important issues open, like, how do you balance this with religious freedom? How do you balance it with freedom of speech? If you’ve got a law, for example, saying that using someone’s preferred pronoun is mandatory — or you can be fined [for non-compliance], how do we balance that with some of these other important and even constitutional questions? Those are things that, for the most part, are unfortunately going to be just decided by a whole range of lower courts. and it will be a long time before the Supreme Court even takes up the opportunity to weigh in on that.”

Severino predicted, “These questions are going to create a tsunami of new litigation and create a huge amount of uncertainty going forward.”

LISTEN:

The Supreme Court’s decision to extend prohibitions against employment discrimination to include sexual orientation and “gender identity” will place religious and traditional organizations at a legal disadvantage when they are inevitably sued by left-wing outfits.

“You’re going to see these decisions going overwhelmingly in favor of the litigants [and] the plaintiffs who are challenging any religious organization, or any school, or anyone who wants to maintain a traditional, biologically based, scientific-based understanding of sex,” Severino forecasted.

“The logic that the court embraced” sets in motion a legal momentum for lower courts to render future decisions in favor of plaintiffs suing religious and traditional organizations for their personnel decisions, Severino anticipated.

Mansour asked if religious organizations would surrender to left-wing activist groups filing lawsuits based on the Supreme Court’s decision given their insufficient resources to legally defend themselves.

Severino replied, “That’s part of the strategy of the activists because they know that many of these organizations can’t afford to pay for defense. They can’t afford to risk a negative judgment where they could face crippling fines. If you’re talking about individuals, you’ve seen what’s happened with cases like the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, where someone’s entire business and livelihood could be destroyed and where they can face even personal threats and real concern over their own safety if they are willing to carry on litigation.”

Severino added, “I think the intimidation factor of a lawsuit is huge, and when you’ve got the court almost inviting that, it’s going to present a real challenge for a lot of people. Practically speaking, for the most part, this isn’t even going to be an issue because I think there’s the vast majority of businesses don’t have any reason or desire to discriminate on either of these bases, but there are circumstances where it is either relevant to the job qualifications or where it’s going to be an issue of conscience, and those are the ones where you’re going to have people who are going to be forced to make those tough choices between violating their own conscience and possibly losing their livelihood.”

The Supreme Court’s decision amounted to a rewriting of civil rights legislation, Severino stated.

“This had to do with the court interpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Severino explained. “We’re kind of familiar with this language. It says that no employers can discriminate on the basis of sex, of religion, of natural origin, and other kinds of classic caveats that you have, but what their question was, ‘It says you can’t discriminate ion the basis of sex. Does that also mean you can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity?’”

Severino continued, “It’s kind of a strange question to be asking because in so many states, now, and in many situations in federal law, we already do have laws preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation, but they never phrase it as ‘discrimination based on sex.’ It’s always explicitly written, ‘discrimination based on sexual orientation.’”

“What the Supreme Court did is, in an opinion, they basically just rewrote what that text said because there is a long-standing history where for decades, no politicians [and] no judge said that language meant sexual orientation, as well,” Severino added.

The Supreme Court’s decision usurps the role of legislators, Severino determined.

“That’s really a revisionist reading of the statute dressed up as textualism, and that’s one of the things that is so dangerous because we have laws that courts can effectively rewrite,” Severino concluded. “No legislator who passed [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act] would have thought it meant that.”

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https://www.breitbart.com/radio/2020/06/15/carrie-severino-scotus-lgbt-decision-tsunami-litigation-religious-groups/