SCOTUS Strikes Down Philadelphia’s Anti-Christian Policy

Big win for religious liberty in Fulton v. Philadelphia, more to be done.

Catholic Social Services (CSS) has been serving the underprivileged children of Philadelphia for over two centuries. The organization serves children through adoption and foster care services as an outpouring of the love embodied in the tenets of the Christian faith.

This is a problem for the Left.

Today’s secular humanist Left is adamant about crushing dissenting views. All people and organizations that refuse to publicly affirm support for LGBTQIA+ desires must be “canceled”—ostracized, isolated, punished, re-educated. Christians, in particular, are a nuisance. They continue to believe in Creation as told in Scripture. They believe every person has intrinsic value as created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That’s why they just will not shut up about the injustice of abortion.

Christians insist that God created us male and female (Genesis 1:27, Matthew 19:4) and that God instituted marriage and the family as a foundational institution (Genesis 2:24) that reflects the most sacred relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31,32). They dare to promote that children honor both their mother and father (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). They insist on loving God above all and neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:30,31). They even believe their help of the poor is akin to serving Christ himself (Matthew 25:40).

This is intolerable. Well, it’s been tolerable for 200 years, but no more. When the Liberal Elites got wind (through a newspaper report) that CSS would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents due to its religious convictions, they decided to kick them off the state’s programs designed to help needy children.

Sure, no same-sex couple had ever sought certification from CSS—most people are decent and are quick to respect one another—but no matter, the government read in the media that if one did, CSS would direct the couple to one of the dozens of agencies which do certify same-sex couples in the city. Therefore, Philadelphia decided it would invest whatever money it took to kick those Christians out. All the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, they went.

Thankfully, after years of litigation, a unanimous Supreme Court finally decided (in Fulton v. Philadelphia) what is plain for all to see: Philadelphia’s actions are a blatant violation of the First Amendment. The Court said, “It is plain that the City’s actions have burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs.”

Because the Court’s precedent has not been as straightforward as it should be on religious freedom, it tried to make it as plain as possible by saying, “We have never suggested that the government may discriminate against religion when acting in its managerial role.”

The Court said the city’s actions must be subjected to “the most rigorous of scrutiny.” 

For many years now, Liberal Elites have engaged in all kinds of anti-Christian bigotry, maliciously targeting Christians (see Jack Phillips) as examples for a bigger cause. The government’s all-encompassing interest in “promoting diversity,” they argue, is supposed to justify their numerous constitutional violations.  

But the Court pushed back on that idea saying, “So long as the government can achieve its interests in a manner that does not burden religion, it must do so.” 

In this case, as was the case with The Little Sisters of the Poor, the government was willing to make all kinds of exceptions to its requirements for agencies, yet specifically targeted CSS and its Christian beliefs as unworthy of accommodation. This, the Court concluded, exposed their animus. “The City offers no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others,” concluded Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote for the unanimous Court. “[T]he actions of the City violate the Free Exercise Clause” of the First Amendment.

There is still much to be done to protect religious freedom today. It would not surprise anyone if Philadelphia merely pivoted after this loss to find some other slick way to accomplish its goal of punishing Christian beliefs. We must remain alert. As it is said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”