Catholic Social Services VS Philadelphia. A Loss For The City.

Phidelphia’s Catholic Social Services (CSS) provides a variety of services to the community.

According to their website:

At Catholic Social Services we provide help and create hope for over 3,100 people every day. Our network of programs offers support to those who need it most. Every day we help the homeless & hungry, at-risk youth, struggling families & single parents. We help immigrants, refugees, neglected children and those with intellectual disabilities.

The CSS also provided adoption services for the City.

However, CSS would not provide adoption services for same gender couples or couples that were not married as to do so would violate their religious beliefs.

The City of Philadelphia stripped the CSS of their license to offer adoption services claiming not allowing same gender couples to adopt was a violation of the law.

CSS sued, and a lower court and the 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled against the CSS.

The CSS then appealed to the US Supreme Court and there the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the Catholic Social Services saying the City could not deny the CSS a license on the basis of the CSS religious beliefs.

From the decision:

The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Pp. 4–15.
The City’s actions burdened CSS’s religious exercise by forcing it either to curtail its mission or to certify same-sex couples as foster parents in violation of its religious beliefs.
A law is not generally applicable if it invites the government to consider the particular reasons for a person’s conduct by creating a mechanism for individualized exemptions. Smith, 494 U. S., at 884. Where such a system of individual exemptions exists, the government may not refuse to extend that system to cases of religious hardship without a compelling reason. Ibid. Pp. 4–7.
The non-discrimination requirement of the City’s standard foster care contract is not generally applicable. Section 3.21 of the contract requires an agency to provide services defined in the contract to prospective foster parents without regard to their sexual orientation.But section 3.21 also permits exceptions to this requirement at the “sole discretion” of the Commissioner. This inclusion of a mechanism for entirely discretionary exceptions renders the non-discrimination provision not generally applicable. Smith, 494 U. S., at 884. The City maintains that greater deference should apply to its treatment of private contractors, but the result here is the same under any level of deference.
Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which as relevant forbids interfering with the public accommodations opportunities of an individual based on sexual orientation, does not apply to CSS’s actions here. The Ordinance defines a public accommodation in relevant part to include a provider “whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” Phila. Code §9–1102(1)(w). Certification is not “made available to the public.”

And then the beat down:

A government policy can survive strict scrutiny only if it advances compelling interests and is narrowly tailored to achieve those interests. Ibid. The question is not whether the City has a compelling interest in enforcing its non-discrimination policies generally, but whether it has such an interest in denying an exception to CSS. Under the circumstances here, the City does not have a compelling interest in refusing to contract with CSS. CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else. The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

The sad thing to us is that the City of Philadelphia was willing to deny a license to a group that was actively helping people.

To us, that seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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