The day after Americans go to the polls to decide if they want four more years of President Trump, his latest Supreme Court nominee, the newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, will hear her first religious liberty case.
The case is between Catholic Social Services and the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia officials have barred Catholic Social Services from providing adoption services because of the agency’s policy of not placing children with same-sex couples. The agency had not refused any same-sex couples, but the policy was considered discriminatory.
Catholic Social Services will be represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Becket Executive Director Montse Alvarado told CBN News, “This is a really landmark case for religious liberty. It’s about the power of the government: whether the government can force you to change what you believe when you’re trying to be a part of the solution when you’re trying to identify a social ill and really be there to make a difference.”
The spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Ken Gavin, said, “The Catholic Church does not endorse same-sex unions, based upon deeply held religious beliefs and principles. As such, CSS would not be able to consider foster care placement within the context of a same-sex union.”
The city will continue to work with the agency but will not allow it to perform adoption services as long as the policy is in place. Philadelphia City Solicitor Marcel Pratt said, “The City believes that the ruling from the Third Circuit affirming the City’s ability to uphold nondiscrimination policies was correct and will now prepare to demonstrate this to the U.S. Supreme Court. This case is ultimately about serving the youth in our care, and the best way to do that is by upholding our sincere commitment to the dignity of all people, including our LGBTQ community.”
His statement is ironic considering that days before barring Catholic Social Services, the city put out an urgent call for 300 more foster families. Despite needing more foster families, the city quickly went after faith-based organizations like Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services. As American Magazine reported, “Catholic Social Services placed 266 children in foster homes last year, while Bethany Christian Services found homes for 170.”
Philadelphia’s attack on religious organizations isn’t “ultimately about serving the youth in our care,” it is about attempting to force faith-based organizations to bow to the will of the LGBTQ movement. As Monica Burke and Jared Eckert noted in the Daily Signal, Philadelphia is facing a severe drug overdose problem, leading to many children being placed in foster care. The best way to serve the youth in foster care is to provide them with the best opportunity to be placed in a stable and loving home, not to shut down adoption providers.
Burke and Eckert referred to the lawsuits against Christian adoption agencies as “a solution in search of a problem.” The Christian adoption agencies in no way lessen the opportunities for LGBT persons to adopt or foster children, but taking away faith-based agencies removes the opportunity for children to be placed in a faith-based organization and for religious parents to foster or adopt through a like-minded agency.
Leftist organizations like the ACLU are blaming these Christian organizations for the plight of unplaced children. Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania said, “What a tragedy for the kids of Philadelphia. This agency is putting its own view on religion above the needs of its kids.”
In reality, Roper and others are putting their views above the needs of kids. Rather than allow a faith-based organization to continue to help children alongside the many organizations that allow LGBT couples to adopt children, they seek to silence all opposing viewpoints.
This important case is Justice Barrett’s first opportunity to rule on a religious liberty case as a member of the Supreme Court. Ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services would provide greater precedent for religious liberty protections. Ruling in favor of the City of Philadelphia would provide precedent for other cities to force faith-based organizations to either violate their religious convictions or close their doors.