The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a faith-based foster care agency in Philadelphia that highlights the conflict between rights of conscience and government laws concerning homosexuality. It will address the question: Can the government force you to deny the tenets of your religion in order to do business with it?  

In 2018, Catholic Social Services (CSS) was targeted by the City of Brotherly Love for allegedly discriminating against homosexuals in the types of families it chose to work with to place foster children.  As part of its contract with the city, CSS “certifies” that any given couple is approved to care for foster children. Due to CSS’s religious beliefs about family, marriage and children, it feels that it cannot certify same-sex couples as “qualified” foster care parents.

Despite the fact that CSS has faithfully served the families of Philadelphia for over 100 years, and has never been asked by a same-sex couple to certify them, the city gave CSS a choice: change your policy and promise to certify homosexual parents or lose city contracts. Faced with that order, CSS decided to challenge Philadelphia’s directive in federal court.

CSS lost in federal district court, and appealed and lost again at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It then asked the Supreme Court to look at its case, and the justices today agreed to hear it.

Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is one of the lawyers representing CSS and the foster parents who brought the lawsuit. In a press statement, she noted, “I’m relieved to hear that the Supreme Court will weigh in on faith-based adoption and foster care. Over the last few years, agencies have been closing their doors across the country, and all the while children are pouring into the system,” Windham continued. “We are confident that the Court will realize that the best solution is the one that has worked in Philadelphia for a century—all hands on deck for foster kids.”

Focus on the Family’s Wait No More outreach is designed to raise adoption awareness and recruit parents for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system. Dr. Sharen Ford heads up that outreach, and she spoke with The Daily Citizen about the Philadelphia case.

“First of all, I can’t tell you how hopeful I am,” she said. “I remember meeting the couple that brought the case and the enthusiasm on their faces about ‘You know what? This is about our kids. This is about our family’s right to choose, and we want to have a say in making the right decision for our family, and making the right decision for children all over our community to be able to be in families who walk by their faith.’”

Ford notes that it’s important for families like these to stand up to those trying to tear down the family.

“It’s one thing for organizations like ours to stand up, but it’s citizen by citizen who will stand up and make the case and bring the case to those people who are trying to turn the tide in a different direction that are going to make the difference. So I applaud that this case is moving forward,” she said.

The typical argument brought against faith-based agencies by LGBT activists and government agencies is that such “discrimination” will result in LGBT couples losing out on fostering or adopting children.

“That’s not the truth,” Dr. Ford told me. “In every state, there’s opportunity for families from whatever walk of life to move forward to become foster or adoptive families. Whether they do that with a licensed child placement agency or with the state or local government, there’s an opportunity for them to do that.”

The case, Fulton v. Philadelphia, will be argued during next year’s term of the court, which begins in October, with a decision likely in 2021. The Daily Citizen will be following this important religious freedom case and keep you informed along the way.


Photo from Becket Law