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Judge says Philadelphia can cut contracts with Catholic groups for refusing same-sex adoption

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PHILADELPHIA, July 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The city of Philadelphia has the power to suspend contracts with religious adoption agencies who refuse to place children in same-sex homes, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Last year, a story about Bethany Christian Services turning away a same-sex couple raised public awareness of both it and Catholic Social Services (CSS) having a policy of placing children only in homes with a mother and/or a father.

Despite both being expressly-religious organizations and the stance aligning with traditional Christian teaching, the city claimed to have been surprised by the revelation, and suspended its contracts with the groups in March. While Bethany moved to comply with the state to restore its contract, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, CSS took the state to court. CSS is operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“The foster care program operated by CSS is, at its root, one designed to provide services to vulnerable children and young people,” the archdiocese’s Kenneth Gavin told LifeSiteNews in March. “Meeting those needs in a safe and caring environment is at the heart of this ministry. Care is provided for all those in need with dignity, charity, and respect regardless of their background.”

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Petrese Tucker denied CSS’s request for a temporary restraining order on the grounds that the city had a legitimate interest to see “that the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents,” and that the adoption agency’s policy was a violation of Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance prohibiting discrimination by city contractors.

Tucker and CSS’s opponents suggested that CSS was unjustifiably rejecting “qualified” parents for purely religious reasons, but pro-family advocates point to a variety of social science literature indicating that children fare best in households with both a mother and a father.

The pro-homosexual PinkNews adds that Tucker also claimed that facilitating same-sex foster parenting somehow wouldn’t constitute a violation of CSS’s religious beliefs simply because the “Services Contract does not require CSS to express its religious approval or disapproval of persons seeking out its services.”

Both city officials and the left-wing ACLU celebrated the ruling, with the latter declaring that when “faith-based agencies choose to receive taxpayer dollars to provide public child-welfare services, their religious beliefs cannot trump the best interests of the children in their care.”

“Catholic Social Services has meant so much to me and to the children I’ve loved and cared for,” said Sharonell Fulton, a single mother who has fostered over 40 children through the agency. “I don’t understand why the city is threatening to shut down the agency that has given hope and a family to so many children.” 

“As a single mom and woman of color, I’ve known a thing or two about discrimination over the years,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But I have never known vindictive religious discrimination like this, and I feel the fresh sting of bias watching my faith publicly derided by Philadelphia’s politicians.”

The religious liberty firm Becket Law, which is representing CSS and three foster families in the case, says their clients have already filed an appeal of the decision. Becket notes that the city and CSS have worked together for more than 50 years, and that Philadelphia’s withdrawal comes shortly after it “put out a call for 300 more homes willing to foster some of the 6,000 children currently in the City’s foster system.”

“Foster children deserve loving homes, and foster parents like [foster parent] Ms. [Cecilia] Paul have been waiting with open arms to welcome them,” Becket senior counsel Lori Windham said. “But the trial court allowed the City to continue its harmful policy – a decision we expect to change with this appeal.”

The pro-LGBT website The Advocate adds that the ACLU hopes the case will impact similar battles currently ongoing in Michigan and Texas. Meanwhile, an amendment preventing localities from discriminating against religious adoption agencies recently cleared the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.

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