Rules Philadelphia may not punish a Catholic adoption agency for following its religious beliefs.
A First Amendment victory.
A Catholic social service agency can’t be denied a city contract to find foster parents for needy children because the agency refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents, Supreme Court ruled today.
That flowed from the Catholic Social Services’ sincerely held religious belief that does not sanction same-sex marriage. For that reason, Philadelphia booted the agency from what it had been successfully doing–finding qualified foster care parents for struggling children.
In Fulton v. Philadelphia, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, noted that
The Catholic Church has served the needy children of Philadelphia for over two centuries. In 1798, a priest in the City organized an association to care for orphans whose parents had died in a yellow fever epidemic….
When criticism of asylums mounted in the Progressive Era, see id., at 37–40, the Church established the Catholic Children’s Bureau to place children in foster homes. Petitioner CSS continues that mission today….
Because the agency understands the certification of prospective foster families to be an endorsement of their relationships, it will not certify unmarried couples—regardless of their sexual orientation—or same-sex married couples. CSS does not object to certifying gay or lesbian individuals as single foster parents or to placing gay and lesbian children. No same-sex couple has ever sought certification from CSS. If one did, CSS would direct the couple to one of the more than 20 other agencies in the City, all of which currently certify same-sex couples. For over 50 years, CSS successfully contracted with the City to provide foster care services while holding to these beliefs.
In reversing a 3-0 appeals court decision, Roberts wrote:
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 noted that the agency did not seek to impose its view against same-sex marriage on anyone else. The agency wasn’t preventing same sex couples from fostering children; there are some 20 other agonies in the city that are more than willing to accommodate them.
That didn’t matter to the crowd of the self-sainted who demanded that everyone kneel to their beliefs. Never mind the First Amendment that guarantees everyone the right to practice their religion.
Wokesters’ eyes will be spinning at the decision, claiming that its another win for the religious right’s assault on the victimized. But here’s a view that it is a victory for liberalism, “properly understood.”
But the larger reason why the decision deserves praise is that it upholds a key principle of political liberalism. The First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion. Such exercise is not limited to individuals attending church or praying in private homes. It’s a freedom of those individuals to join together and associate with others of their faith in civil society. That includes the freedom of a Catholic social service agency to facilitate adoptions, even when the foundational beliefs undergirding that agency preclude facilitating adoptions for same-sex couples.
To insist that such organizations set aside their foundational beliefs when they clash with the moral convictions of ideological progressivism — or, in the language of Fulton decision, to force a Catholic organization “to curtail its mission or to certify same-sex couples as foster parents in violation of its religious beliefs” — is an act of illiberalism. That’s because it amounts to insisting not just that the state but also private religious entities must uniformly affirm a comprehensive moral view different from and in conflict with their own as the price of entering the public square. That effectively turns the country into a political community with an established church of progressive moral absolutism.
Liberalism is, or should be, an ideology open to a rich and vibrant pluralism. Which is exactly what the Supreme Court has affirmed in its decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.
Amen to that. If anything, it illustrates just how far from their roots that progressives/liberals/Democrats have wandered in the campaign to impose their views on everyone.To subscribe to the Barbershop, type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.