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Editorial: Religious freedom is no excuse for discrimination against gay couples

Nov 9, 2020

By the Times Editorial Board

A Catholic social services agency urged the Supreme Court this week to rule that the agency can participate in the city of Philadelphia’s foster care program while refusing to work with same-sex couples. The court should reject the agency’s appeal and make it clear that religious freedom may not be used as a license to discriminate.

Catholic Social Services, which long has participated in Philadelphia’s foster care program, lost its contract to screen prospective foster parents after city officials learned that the agency wouldn’t consider same-sex couples as foster parents. Because that policy is based on the Catholic Church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, the agency claims that the city is violating its religious freedom.

The agency, joined by two foster parents, also is urging the court to reconsider a 1990 decision that held that the 1st Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion didn’t allow believers to opt out of generally applicable laws. A federal appeals court cited that decision in ruling against Catholic Social Services, finding that the city’s enforcement of an anti-discrimination ordinance didn’t target Catholic Social Services for its religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court should affirm the appeals court’s ruling.

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