The United States Supreme Court has unanimously sided with a Catholic adoption agency in a religious freedom case regarding same sex unions.
The court ruled 9-0 that the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) unless CSS agreed to ‘certify same-sex couples as foster parents” violates CSS’s free exercise of the First Amendment.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who delivered the opinion of the court, wrote that “as an initial matter, it is plain that the City’s actions have burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs.”
“The City disagrees,” he continued. “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.’”
#BREAKING: Foster moms Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch can continue fostering children in partnership with their faith-affirming foster agency, Catholic Social Services. #SCOTUS unanimously ruled just moments ago: https://t.co/uUocT5Nx8P #FreeToFoster @FreeToFoster pic.twitter.com/7DCRSXwg2u
— BECKET (@BECKETlaw) June 17, 2021
The justices repeatedly mention in their opinions on the ruling that CSS has provided foster care services to the city of Philadelphia for over 50 years, “continuing the centuries-old mission of the Catholic Church to serve Philadelphia’s needy children.” (RELATED: Supreme Court Ruling Sends A Message Churches Can’t Be Treated Like ‘Second Class’ Citizens, Legal Experts Say)
“CSS holds the religious belief that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman,” the ruling said. “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. But other private foster agencies in Philadelphia will certify same-sex couples, and no same-sex couple has sought certification from CSS.”
The city of Philadelphia informed CSS that unless it would certify same-sex couples, the City would not refer children to the agency.
“The City explained that the refusal of CSS to certify same-sex married couples violated both a non-discrimination provision in the agency’s contract with the City as well as the non-discrimination requirements of the citywide Fair Practices Ordinance,” the ruling said.
“Today’s decision prohibits government sanctioned discrimination against religious adoption and foster care agencies because of their beliefs about marriage,” senior fellow with The Catholic Association Ashley McGuire said in a statement. “Catholic adoption agencies have been placing vulnerable children in loving homes for centuries without discriminating based on race, religion, sex, or disability.”