The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously condemned Philadelphia’s decision to terminate a long-standing contract with a Catholic social services agency over its refusal to consider same-sex married couples as potential foster parents.
The justices agreed that that the city’s 2018 move to end its relationship with Catholic Social Services, which had cited its religious beliefs about marriage in refusing to work with LGBTQ couples, violated its constitutional rights to free religious expression.
The city may have been hoisted by its own petard because the Chief Justice, who wrote the opinion, contended
that because the city allowed some exceptions to the non-discrimination clause standard in all of its contracts, it must provide one in this case.
But the court’s majority sidestepped those larger questions by deciding the case on specific language in Philadelphia’s contracts with foster screening agencies that grants the city’s Commissioner of Human Services discretion to grant exceptions to the non-discrimination rules.
The city maintained that the matter was moot because, despite the language in the contract, no exemptions had ever been made.
The decision had not yet been read by the CNN panelists as of the airing of the segment. However, Biskupic recognizes "it's another step, and I'm sure it's another step no matter what the legal reasoning is, because we've seen this pattern over time, to allowing more exemptions for religious groups from general laws." Toobin explains
You know, you can write these things as narrowly as you want. But the message that it sends by cases like this and by the results in this case, no matter what the words the Chief Justice used are, is that religious organizations- and it's almost always Christian and it's usually Catholic organziations- do not have to follow the laws that everybody else has to follow. They can excuse themselves when they have religious objections and that is a message that is being sent loud and clear, whether it's holding religious services during Covid, whether it is fulfilling the requirements to pay for contraception for employees, whether it is baking a cake for a same-sex wedding, that you can get out of obligations that are imposed on everyone else if you have a religious objection.... We should expect lots more cases in this direction.
Tradition and common sense be damned, "religious liberty," it appears, no longer applies primarily to worshipping as one chooses. It's now about a claim of religious privilege, a sort of "get out of jail card" for religious organizations, or for any organization or person who claims that a requirement violates his (or its) its religious principle. When "religious liberty" is stretched beyond its original meaning, judges increasingly infer that equal justice under the law is an un-Christian value. Christianity deserves better.
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