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  • Writer's pictureEmilie Dye

Is Fulton v the City of Philadelphia Really a Win for Freedom of Religion?

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Many are heralding the Supreme Court’s decision in Fulton v Philadelphia as a win for freedom of religion when in fact it is just the opposite. The Supreme Court has required the City of Philadelphia to continue to hire an organisation guilty of using a government contract to enforce their ideology and potentially negatively impact the lives of foster children. As a result, the Supreme Court has endorsed one religious view while indicating to other Americans that their views are second class.

The court chose to allow Catholic Social Services (CSS) to continue to discriminate against homosexual and unmarried couples seeking to foster and adopt children because other oganisations in Philadephia will serve these groups. However, as the caregivers of these children it is the responsibility of the state to ensure they have all the best possible resources. This change could set a precedent where the government is forced to provide contracts and funding to organisations and businesses even if they misuse those funds for religious purposes.

Less than 20% of Americans identify as Catholic, while 70% disagree with the Catholic church and think gay marriage should be legal. Government contracts should not go to an organisation so directly in opposition to the views of the vast majority of Americans.

In the case of foster children, it is the state’s responsibility to ensure they do not have certain religious views forced upon them without their consent. And children cannot consent.

To call a child Catholic or Muslim or Jain is as silly as looking at a baby and calling them a socialist or an anarcho-capitalist. While as a toddler, I would have happily announced to anyone who would listen that I was a Republican, but I probably couldn’t have told you what that was beyond a chipper, “my parents are Republicans.”

Children tend to reflect the views of their parents or guardians. A child born to Catholic parents will likely be baptised and go to mass every Sunday. But in reality, we cannot say for sure what the child believes until they reach an age where they are capable of rational thought.

We do not allow children to make decisions about who represents them in Congress or even who is on their school board. That’s up to their parents.

When children don’t have parents, they’re wards of the state, a secular organisation . As such, they shouldn’t have religious beliefs foisted upon them. It’s the state’s responsibility to prevent this. And that should include stopping other organisations acting on behalf of the state from determining these children’s fates based on their own dogma.

This case has less to do with discrimination and more to do with a public endorsement of Catholicism and forcing certain relgious views on the lives of children.

Same-sex parents are four times more likely than straight parents to raise an adopted child, and 4% of all adopted children in the United States went to same-sex homes. These children have benefited greatly from the state using secular adoption agencies, instead of those with a religious agenda.

It is important the Supreme Court respects the religious views of all people, not merely the loudest. They should be particularly careful to respect those who don’t have a voice in society, for example children.

CCS and other non-profits tasked with certifying foster parents are given government contracts and government funding. They shouldn’t be allowed to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate against homosexuals.Forcing Philadelphia to continue working with CSS blurs the line separating church and state.

The state would never require a Catholic diocese to hire homosexual priest. So why should the state force a city to hire a homophobic foster agency?

Making this case merely about discrimination distracted from the main issue. CSS did not do their job. They were supposed to ‘certify prospective foster families under statutory criteria’ nothing more, nothing less. Instead they used the power given them to enforce a certain religious ideology with the potential to severely impact the lives of the children in their care.

The Supreme Court should not give preference to religious groups making them unfireable simply because they cry religious discrimination. In fact, the First Amendment demands the Supreme Court send CSS packing. State resources and contracts should not go to the establishment or promotion of any religious view.

This article first appeared in Counter Punch on 5 July 2021.

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