Important Religious Liberty Case Before the Supreme Court

Fulton v. City of Philadelphia is a case about religious liberty that the Supreme Court is considering.

The City of Philadelphia is charged with refusing to refer couples interested in fostering children to Catholic Social Services on the grounds that the Catholic Church believes that children need a mother and a father and, as such, CSS will not place foster children with same-sex couples. The City of Philadelphia considers this discrimination. Catholic Social Services, as a Catholic organization, is simply following centuries-old Judeo-Christian teaching.

The origins of the case are not in reports or complaints of discrimination by homosexual couples. Indeed, there have been no complaints against CSS from homosexual couples. Rather, a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer called and complained to Philadelphia Human Services that CSS and another Protestant-run foster care agency would not place foster children with same-sex couples, then ran a story about it a few days later. Cynthia Figueroa, Commissioner of Human Services, then met with James Amato, Secretary of Catholic Social Services. Amato confirmed CSS’s practice. Figueroa then told Amato that, “It would be great if we could follow the teachings of Pope Francis,” then criticized CSS for following the lead of Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput. Amato countered that CSS was simply doing what any legitimate Catholic organization would do, practicing Catholic teaching.

The idea of a government official criticizing a Catholic organization for following Catholic teaching is beyond the pale. It isn’t the business of the government to tell the Catholic Church what to believe or teach, or how to implement Catholic teaching. It isn’t the business of the government to tell Catholic organizations to reject the teachings of the Church in favor of secular values. It isn’t the business of the government to misrepresent the teachings of a pope, and then attempt to force that misrepresentation on a Catholic organization.

For the record, Pope Francis has never condoned or even suggested that same-sex marriage is acceptable, or that children ought to be raised by same-sex couples. Rather, he has reaffirmed Catholic teaching that children need and have a right to a mother and a father.

This is an important case for religious liberty. We simply cannot tolerate the secular state insisting that the Church mold her teachings and practices according to whatever secular value is embraced at any particular time in history.

The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments for Fulton v. City of Philadelphia and a ruling is expected in the spring of 2021.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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