Faith leaders praise foster care ruling, though difficulties may loom


Religious leaders across the country welcomed Thursday’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling supporting a Catholic adoption agency’s faith-based policy against placing children with same-sex couples.

The justices agreed, 9-0, in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that the city discriminated against Catholic Social Services’ foster-care program when it cut ties with the agency over its same-sex policy.

Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez, who leads the Catholic archdiocese there said at a news conference the ruling “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.” 

He added it was “a crystal-clear affirmation of First Amendment rights for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all charitable ministries in the United States who are inspired by their faith to serve the most vulnerable among us.”

Archbishop Pérez said the high court’s decision “allows our ministries to continue serving those in need, for foster families to find an agency that shares and reflects their faith, and 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.”

The ruling also drew praise from Nathan Diamant, executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, a conservative Jewish group.

“Today’s historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is of critical importance to the American Orthodox Jewish community,” Mr. Diamant said in a statement. “Today’s ruling in Fulton 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,” he added.

The National Association of Evangelicals also applauded the ruling.

“We are delighted that faith-based agencies will be able to continue serving our nation’s most vulnerable children in a way that honors the faith convictions that motivate their efforts,” said Walter Kim, the group’s president. “We need an all-hands-on-deck response to the foster care crisis, not government mandates that eliminate an important segment of the population based on their religious beliefs.”

At the same time, the Fulton decision concerns those hoping to keep LGBTQ+ rights and religious freedom in balance. Constitutional law professor Robin Fretwell Wilson, who directs the University of Illinois’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said future civil rights legislation might become more “rigid” and omit exemptions for religious free exercise if the goal is to expand gay rights. She said lawmakers who might otherwise be friendly toward accommodation would be “pushed … not to create flexibility if you don’t mean to use it for religious people.”

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