On June 17, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously in favor Catholic Social Services (CSS), which had been barred by the City of Philadelphia from participating in the foster parent program because CSS places children only with families consisting of a mother and father. In a 9-0 decision, the Justices said that Catholic Social Services was entitled to an exemption from the City’s nondiscrimination policy.
When the Supreme Court was considering this case, a group of Republican officers filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Philadelphia. They were current and former Republican legislators, elected officials and leaders, including VA State Senator Jill Vogel and Virginia Beach City Council Member Michael Berlucchi.
What were those Republicans’ concerns? While claiming to be “profoundly committed to religious freedom, [they] do not support the provisions of religious exemptions to faith-based agencies when those agencies are providing child welfare services under a taxpayer-funded government contract.”
The Amici declared, “Discrimination, in any form, threatens to undermine basic principles of this nation.” (Presumably, one of those basic principles is religious freedom.) In tortuous fashion, their brief then went on to discriminate against the religious tenets of Catholic Social Services.
Essentially, the Amici argued against Catholic Social Services because: CSS was taking money under contract with the City of Philadelphia, it would prove too costly to the administration of those contracts to carve out religious exemptions, giving CSS an exemption could promote discrimination against other religious entities, and the pool of available foster parents would be reduced (even though there are some 20 other agencies in Philadelphia with foster service contracts that work with married LGBT foster parents).
Key to the Supreme Court’s decision was the fact that the City of Philadelphia has the authority to grant contract exemptions under certain circumstances.
The Court was not persuaded by the Amici arguments and ruled 9-0 in favor of Catholic Social Services, a noteworthy decision by its unanimity.
After the decision was handed down, I reached out to Senator Vogel’s office to ask if she would be issuing a statement about the 9-0 ruling. Neither my phone message nor email has been answered.