In a unanimous ruling welcomed by conservatives everywhere, the United States Supreme Court last week that the City of Philadelphia engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against a Catholic adoption agency over its policy declining to place children with same-sex couples, as The Hill reports.
The case arose when Philadelphia officials severed its relationship with Catholic Social Services (CSS), an adoption agency that declined to place foster children in the homes of same-sex couples, a policy formulated in keeping with the tenets of the organization’s overriding religious faith. City officials argued that the agency’s stance was itself a violation of municipality’s nondiscrimination ordinance.
As explained in the majority opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the city government’s conduct was in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution in that “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it 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.”
The opinion went on to add that the city’s position with regard to the agency amounted to an unlawful burden on its operations by “putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs.”
Not surprisingly, the court’s decision in the case was lauded by religious leaders from a range of denominations, as it stands as an affirmation of the religious liberty guaranteed in the Constitution and also facilitates fulfillment of the noble mission undertaken by agencies such as CSS.
Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez expressed relief in the wake of the decision, declaring that it “brings light and relief for children in need of loving homes and for the heroic foster parents who open their hearts and doors to care for them,” as the Washington Times noted.
Perez further stated that the ruling “allows our ministries to continue serving those in need, for foster families to find an agency that shares and reflects their faith, and for for foster children to find a loving home. It also protects our enshrined right to religious freedom and celebrates the rich diversity of religious beliefs in the United States.”
Catholic officials were not the only religious leaders to herald the outcome, with Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations leader Nathan Diament remarking, “Today’s ruling…reinstates that robust protection at the constitutional level and thus more potently promises that Jews – along with Americans of all faiths – will have our religious practices protected from government interference.”
In the face of an alarming onslaught of attacks on religious freedom from whom former Attorney General William Barr has referred to as the “militant secularists” entrenched in seemingly every facet of public and political life, it is indeed reassuring that the nine, ideologically diverse justices at the high court could reach consensus in this critical case.