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U.S. Supreme Court to hear case involving Catholic foster care agency’s exclusion of same-sex parents


The city of Philadelphia barred Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes, and the agency sued the city, saying their religious freedom had been violated..

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a religious freedom case involving a Catholic foster care agency’s right to refuse to place children with same-sex parents.

The justices will hear an appeal from Catholic Social Services, which sued the City of Philadelphia in 2018 after they were banned from placing children in foster homes because they refused to license same-sex parents.

The foster care agency, which falls under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, maintained that it was the victim of discrimination because of its religious views, and that the city violated its First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

A lower court ruled against the social services agency in 2018, and the Third Circuit court ruled in 2019 that the city did not show religious persecution, and that the Catholic agency was required to “abide by its non-discrimination polices.”

The religious liberty law firm Becket, which has represented Catholic Social Services since the city of Philadelphia banned them from foster placements, asked the Supreme Court to take up the case, Fulton v. Philadelphia.

The firm is representing Sharonell Fulton, a single mother who had fostered over 40 children in 26 years, and other foster parents who had filed the discrimination suit against the city of Philadelphia.

When the federal appeals court ruled in favor of the city’s ban on the faith-based agency, Fulton, said the ruling was a further violation of her religious freedom.

“As a single mom and woman of color, I’ve known a thing or two about discrimination over the years,” Fulton said. 

“But I have never known vindictive religious discrimination like this, and I feel the fresh sting of bias watching my faith publicly derided by Philadelphia’s politicians. Today’s court ruling lets Philadelphia continue that religious discrimination.”

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