The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously, on Fulton v. Philadelphia, that the city of Philadelphia was wrong in excluding Catholic Social Services from gaining foster care services contracts because of their religious views.
Catholic Social Services seeks to help place children without suitable guardians in a protective foster home. The foster care service provider is Catholic and thus argued that Catholic Social Services (CSS) would violate its widely known religious beliefs to qualify for the city contracts.
Some Conservatives believe this could be an indicator that the Supreme Court is somehow “on our side.” However, the ruling being 9-0 in a case dealing with sexual orientation points that this has less to do with religious freedoms than we think. Instead, the ruling likely shows that the lawyers who wrote Philadelphia’s contract did so in a way that failed their end goal.
The argument started in 2018 when Philadelphia stopped using CSS as a foster care service provider. The message was clear. CSS was to stop supporting their belief that a blessed marriage from God is between a man and a woman only. Any marriage not between a man and a woman could not be blessed because it will bear no fruit.
CSS felt that when Philadelphia asked the Catholic foster care provider to place children into foster care homes of same-sex couples, it was an active violation of their religious beliefs. In April 2019, CSS and the city of Philadelphia were in Court over the issue. A Third Circuit Court denied CSS’s request for a preliminary injunction.
CSS successfully got the Supreme Court to take the case, but it wasn’t entirely on the grounds of religious freedom. The Supreme Court wants another chance at the infamous Employment Div. Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith. The Syllabus for Fulton v. Philadelphia writes that “Smith held that laws incidentally burdening religion are ordinarily not subject to strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause so long as they are both neutral and generally applicable.”
The city of Philadelphia argued that “the refusal of CSS to certify same-sex married couples violated both a non-discrimination provision in the agency’s contract with the City as well as the non-discrimination requirements of the citywide Fair Practices Ordinance.” The Court decided against that argument, saying that Philadelphia’s policy does violate the First Amendment rights of CSS as well as three foster parents who joined the suit.
“Held: The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
The Supreme Court is not signifying that it is a conservative stronghold pushing back against laws violating our First Amendment. Look no further than Justice Barrett, who was touted by the left as a Trad Catholic ready to turn America into an episode of the Handmaid’s Tale. Sadly, the Trump pick is a major disappointment for many Conservatives, often taking the Liberal side of the bench. Justice Barrett writes, “As the Court’s opinion today explains, the government contract at issue provides for individualized exemptions from its non-discrimination rule, thus triggering scrutiny.”
Justice Barrett upheld Smith as a case where if the Supreme Court overturned its earlier decision, it would bring chaos to the justice system. Justice Alito, along with Justice Thomas and Justice Gorsuch, writes that “Smith was wrongly decided. As long as it remains on the books, it threatens a fundamental freedom. And while precedent should not lightly be cast aside, the Court’s error in Smith should now be corrected.”
The official opinion of the Court held: “The City’s actions burdened CSS’s religious exercise by forcing it either to curtail its mission or to certify same-sex couples as foster parents in violation of its religious beliefs.”