Jul 30, 2020
Does the Catholic Church have a right to follow its convictions about sexual morality in its own institutions without being penalized by government? In its June decision declaring “gay” and “transgender” to be protected categories under federal law barring sex-based discrimination, the Supreme Court left that question unanswered.
But probably not for long.
Sometime next fall – the date hasn’t been announced yet – the court will hear a case called Fulton v. Philadelphia in which the Archdiocese of Philadelphia challenges the city’s action in forcing Catholic Social Services out of foster care because the Catholic agency won’t place foster children with same-sex couples.
The facts in the case are obviously different from those in the Supreme Court’s recent LGBTQ decision on job discrimination (Bostock v. Clayton County). But the clash of interests involved was clearly foreseen by Justice Neil Gorsuch in his majority opinion in Bostock. Conflicts between religious liberty and LGBTQ claims, he wrote, raise “questions for future cases” that the Supreme Court would soon face.
The heart of these conflicts is clear in the Philadelphia dispute. Catholic Social Services, an arm of the local archdiocese, has been involved in foster care since 1917, long before the city became involved. But today the city controls foster care and contracts with private agencies to recruit foster parents and place children. In 2017-2018 the Catholic agency was responsible for 120 of these youngsters.