CWLA joined dozens of children’s groups and other advocates in filing an amicus brief in support of the City of Philadelphia in upholding their non-discrimination requirements in child placements. The case will be heard at the Supreme Court the day after the election.
In 2018 a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer had determined that some faith-based agencies were violating the non-discrimination requirements the City had in place when it came to the placement of children. Catholic Charities had not been initially covered in the reporting, but in a review of the child welfare agency’s practices, the City determined that the agencies were not in compliance with non-discrimination requirements and pulled their contract. Catholic Charities of Philadelphia said it was religious discrimination arguing they were entitled to enter into such contracts using the 2017 Supreme Court ruling, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in claiming that it too had been subjected to hostility based on anti-religious prejudice. The 2017 Supreme Court ruling had dealt with whether a cake shop had to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples. This court case will deal with the placement of children in foster care and adoptions from foster care.
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the Catholic Charities agency. As part of that legal dispute, CWLA was part of an Amicus Brief along with Voice for Adoption, The North American Council on Adoptable Children, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and the National Association of Social Workers in support of the City of Philadelphia. CWLA has also been an active supporter of the Every Child Deserves A Family Act (HR 3114, S. 1791) to ban discrimination in the placement of children and youth; and to ban discrimination in the recruitment of parents who want to adopt from foster care and parents who want to provide foster care.
According to the legal brief filed by the City of Philadelphia, “For many years, the City’s standard foster-care contracts have prohibited discrimination based on characteristics enumerated in the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, including race and sexual orientation. The City has never allowed contractors to turn away potential foster parents based on a protected characteristic. Although this longstanding policy applies to all City contractors—and although the City has long contracted with Catholic Social Services and continues to do so for a range of other child-welfare services—CSS contends that the City’s decision to enforce this policy against it reflects religious hostility.”
After the Philadelphia Inquirer story, Bethany Christian Services, which had been the original focus of the article, came to a mutual agreement with Philadelphia, and they continue in their child welfare services in the city.
Catholic Charities has argued, “The mayor, city council, Department of Human Services, and other city officials have targeted CSS and attempted to coerce it into changing its religious practices in order to make such endorsements. The City’s actions are a direct and open violation of the First Amendment. Yet the lower courts have upheld them.” To read the most recent amicus brief filed by CWLA and other groups, go here.