Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Supreme Court of the United States
November 4, 2020, Argued; June 17, 2021, Decided
Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.
Catholic Social Services is a foster care agency in Philadelphia. The City stopped referring children to CSS upon discovering that the agency would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents due to its religious beliefs about marriage. The City will renew its foster care contract with CSS only if the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples. The question presented is whether the actions of Philadelphia violate the First Amendment.
The Catholic Church has served the needy children of Philadelphia for over two centuries. In 1798, a priest in the City organized an association to care [*8] for orphans whose parents had died in a yellow fever epidemic. H. Folks, The Care of Destitute, Neglected, and Delinquent Children 10 (1902). During the 19th century, nuns ran asylums for orphaned and destitute youth. T. Hacsi, Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America 24 (1997). When criticism of asylums mounted in the Progressive Era, see id., at 37-40, the Church established the Catholic Children’s Bureau to place children in foster homes. Petitioner CSS continues that mission today.
The Philadelphia foster care system depends on cooperation between the City and private foster agencies like CSS. When children cannot remain in their homes, the City’s Department of Human Services assumes custody of them. The Department enters standard annual contracts with private foster agencies to place some of those children with foster families.
The placement process begins with review of prospective foster families. ] Pennsylvania law gives the authority to certify foster families to state-licensed foster agencies like CSS. 55 Pa. Code §3700.61 (2020). Before certifying a family, an agency must conduct a home study during which it considers statutory criteria including the family’s “ability to provide care, [*9] nurturing and supervision to children,” “[e]xisting family relationships,” and ability “to work in partnership” with a foster agency. §3700.64. The agency must decide whether to “approve, disapprove or provisionally approve the foster family.” §3700.69.
When the Department seeks to place a child with a foster family, it sends its contracted agencies a request, known as a referral. The agencies report whether any of their certified families are available, and the Department places the child with what it regards as the most suitable family. The agency continues to support the family throughout the placement.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
2021 U.S. LEXIS 3121 *
SHARONELL FULTON, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [*1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Fulton v. City of Phila., 922 F.3d 140, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 11711 (3d Cir. Pa., Apr. 22, 2019)
Disposition: 922 F. 3d. 140, reversed and remanded.
exemptions, generally applicable, religious, cases, free-exercise, religion, same-sex, couples, public accommodation, foster, rights, foster parent, Church, agencies, decisions, joined, religious exemption, Ordinance, targeting, exercise of religion, religious liberty, foster care, secular, free exercise, strict scrutiny, certify, free exercise of religion, grounds, non-discrimination, terms
Family Law, Delinquency & Dependency, Foster Care, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Religion, Free Exercise of Religion, Bill of Rights, State Application, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Public Facilities, Scope, Local Governments, Ordinances & Regulations, Civil Procedure, US Supreme Court Review