The United States Supreme Court sided with religious rights over LGBTQ rights in its ruling in favor of a Catholic Social Services (CSS) agency’s lawsuit filed after the Department of Human Services (DHS) of Philadelphia refused to place children for foster care because of its policy barring gay couples from applying as foster parents. On June 17, 2021, the 9-0 ruling was decidedly a win for the church and its policies.
Chief Justice Roberts, a conservative, authored the court’s decision for the CSS agency operating under the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The finding “represented the latest instance of the Supreme Court taking an expansive view of religious rights under the U.S. Constitution,” reports Reuters.
Philadelphia DHS’s refusal to use CSS for foster care services unless it changed its policy about certifying same-sex couples. Roberts said the city failed to uphold the guarantee of freedom of religion in its contracts by refusing to extend the right to CSS when it screens potential foster-care parents.
The justices asserted the city violated the CSS agency’s First Amendment right to exercise their faith freely. Roberts’s opinion was narrow enough for the liberal members to support the ruling but drew the ire of the three most conservative Justices for not going further. He wrote:
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.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Neil M. Gorsuch, the Court’s most conservative members, thought the case required a stronger decision. Alito complained they had “emitted a wisp” of a ruling. He said the decision left “religious liberty in a confused and vulnerable state.”
He wrote that Roberts’s opinion was dependant on the “glitch” in Philadelphia’s contractual procedures, and they could change their rules and avoid dealing with the CSS entirely. According to Alito, the court should have provided guidance in the form of related cases in other jurisdictions — like those in San Francisco and Washington D.C., whose anti-discrimination laws have clashed with Catholic organizations.
No matter how slim Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch believe the court’s decision, conservative and religious advocacy rights groups are pleased.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Reuters: U.S. Supreme Court backs Catholic group that shunned gay foster parents; by Lawrence Hurley and Will Dunham
The Washington Post: Supreme Court unanimously rules for Catholic group in Philadelphia foster-care dispute; by Robert Barnes
Featured and Top Image by Roseohioresident Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Province of British Columbia’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License