Archdiocese of Philadelphia Not Exempt from Law

From NCR: “Court says Philadelphia can end faith-based agencies' foster placements.” NCR reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals court ruled that “the city of Philadelphia can bar Catholic Social Services … from placing children in foster care with any family because the Catholic agency upholds traditional marriage.” In fact, the Court said, “The city stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its nondiscrimination policies when administering public services.” NCR assumes a divine right of discrimination.

The same issue has arisen elsewhere. In those cases, the Catholic agencies are facing civil lawsuits, as the states or cities are allowing discriminatory behavior by Catholic agencies. It will be interesting see if state agencies can be forced to reject discriminatory behavior.

The Court of Appeals said the First Amendment “does not prohibit government regulation of religiously motivated conduct so long as that regulation is not a veiled attempt to suppress disfavored religious beliefs.” This does not seem to imply that the government must enforce non-discriminatory behavior by Catholic agencies.

Government agencies have created a wide variety of religious exemptions. Catholic hospitals, for example, can refuse to perform selected medically authorized procedures covered by Medicare and Medicaid. It will be interesting to see how far ACLU and other groups will take it. It has the makings of a major wedge issue.


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