The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday that the city of Philadelphia violated religious protections when the city decided to cut ties with a Catholic adoption agency over its policies to not place foster children with LGBT couples.
The group, Catholic Social Services (CSS) argued that “Philadelphia’s attempts to exclude the Catholic Church from foster care” violated the First Amendment.
Lawyers for the city claimed that CSS “lacks a constitutional right to demand that DHS offer it a contract that omits the same nondiscrimination requirement every other FFCA must follow when performing services for the City.”
The Court unanimously ruled in favor with CSS.
“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,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in a majority opinion. “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.”
Roberts was joined with fellow Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
“As the Court’s opinion today explains, the government contract at issue provides for individualized exemptions from its nondiscrimination rule, thus triggering strict scrutiny,” write Justice Barrett. “And all nine Justices agree that the City cannot satisfy strict scrutiny.”
“Today, the Supreme Court rightly affirmed that the Constitution guarantees faith-based agencies freedom from government harassment and discrimination because of their religious beliefs about marriage,” said Catholic Vote President Brian Burch in a statement.
“[O]ur society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” wrote Roberts, quoting the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. “On the facts of this case, however, this interest cannot justify denying CSS an exception for its religious exercise. The creation of a system of exceptions under the contract undermines the City’s contention that its nondiscrimination policies can brook no departures. The City offers no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others.”