The Supreme Court has ruled that Philadelphia cannot exclude a Catholic organization out of its foster care program since the group won’t work with same-sex couples.
The conclusion handed down Thursday has been closely watched by LGBTQ advocates because could make it easier for private organizations or individuals providing government-funded solutions to refuse to serve certain customers according to religious tenets.
The high court’s ruling in the Philadelphia case rested on narrow grounds that may not have immediately transferred the law in this direction. On the other hand, the headcount of the justices seen from the court’s four opinions indicated that they’re prepared to demand more accommodation of religious views, though they don’t yet agree on exactly how to do so.
The ultimate decision from the Catholic Social Services situation was unanimous. He said such function doesn’t amount to the kind of”public accommodation” which cannot discriminate on the basis of race, faith or sexual orientation.
“Certification as a foster parent…is not readily accessible to the public. It involves a customized and selective assessment that bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus,” Roberts wrote.
The court’s three liberals and two of Roberts’ conservative colleagues, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, went along with that analysis.
However, the court’s three other conservative justices complained bitterly that the majority’s analysis was tortured and amounted to dodging the main issue in the case about when government can burden the religious views of those through whom it provides services.
In a pair of opinions, the same three justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — also excoriated their colleagues for failing to issue a more sweeping decision overturning a two-decade-old precedent that the Constitution allows the government to enforce broad-based rules even if they severely impinge on religious beliefs.
The Catholic group contends its religious views keep it from certifying gay or lesbian couples to serve as foster parents. Lawyers for the city of Philadelphia said it requires all the foster care agencies it works with not to discriminate as part of their contract.
During arguments in the case in November, held on the morning after Election Day, some justices suggested the legal showdown was contrived because there was no evidence any gay or lesbian couple had sought to work with Catholic Social Services and was rebuffed. There were also many other organizations that would accept such applicants, conservative justices said.
But liberal justices warned that giving the Catholic group the green light to exclude gays could open the door to organizations that might refuse to deal with interracial couples or put restrictions on women.