Supreme Court unanimously rules for Catholic group in Philadelphia foster-care dispute

18 Juin, 2021, 05:08 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Supreme Court Unanimously Backs Catholic Group

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that the city of Philadelphia overreached in imposing an anti-discrimination law on a Catholic charity that refused to place foster children with same-sex couples. Though, the agency has contracted with the city for over 50 years and there are other foster care agencies in the city that will certify same-sex couples, according to the court's opinion.

"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", Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

"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", 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 can not survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment", he said, referring to the highest standard the court has for finding laws constitutional.

It was also the first case of the term to be heard by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic appointed by former President Donald Trump, and who is seen as one of the more conservative justices.

Barrett herself wrote a concurring opinion, which was joined fully by Kavanaugh and partially by Breyer. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch wrote a concurrence that Thomas and Alito joined.

The city's actions, he wrote, "burdened CSS's religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs", noting the city's dissent of that opinion.

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In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, noted the city's long relationship with the religious agency and explained why it was wrong for the government to "fail to act neutrally when it proceeds in a manner intolerant of religious beliefs or restricts practices due to their religious nature". A lower court and a federal circuit court ruled in the city's favor, so CSS appealed to the Supreme Court. "The District Court's contrary conclusion did not take into account the uniquely selective nature of foster care certification", Roberts argued.

Under long-standing constitutional law, religious beliefs do not provide an exemption from civil rights laws and can not be used as an excuse for discrimination. Forcing a Catholic agency to operate in a way that is antithetical to its beliefs would, Alito reasoned, would surely erode religious freedom beyond what the founders intended.

Beginning in 2018, the city of Philadelphia asked that all contractors follow the city's anti-discrimination policies. "Those efforts are rooted in an anti-Catholic bigotry that refuses to tolerate pluralistic views and beliefs", McGuire explained.

Philadelphia works with "private agencies to screen foster parents for children in need".

"Yet we know there is more work that must be done to ensure that the best interest of the child is always prioritized, including through family reunification. That's what it means to keep kids first", Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel Kristen Waggoner said in a statement.

"We do not doubt that this interest is a weighty one, for 'our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples can not be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth, '" he wrote, quoting a passage in the 2018 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado. And so now is the flawless time for the high court to address a religious freedom question that has been pending for years in Arlene's Flowers, the case of Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman. Although the grounds for the court's unanimous ruling were narrow, the implications are broad and indicate a court that is inclined to allow discrimination based on religious beliefs. "The Supreme Court's intervention is sorely needed to end this abuse of power".

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