- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2019

Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services says it wants to keep working with foster care families — but it will take intervention by the Supreme Court to make it happen.

The Catholic charity will ask the justices to block a city policy requiring foster care organizations to be willing to place children with LGBTQ individuals or couples, saying the city shouldn’t be allowed to force the organization to choose between its mission and its religious beliefs.

After losing a previous bid to have the high court take the case in 2018, the group is more hopeful now, with Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on the court.

“We think there is a much better chance the court will be interested now,” said Nick Reaves, an attorney with Becket, a religious liberty legal group representing the organization.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled against Catholic Social Services, saying Philadelphia wasn’t targeting Catholics but was enforcing its nondiscrimination policy.

The case is the latest to test the expanding area of gay rights and highlight the conflict it’s spurring with faith-based organizations.

Becket also represents Michigan’s St. Vincent Catholic Charities, which recruits families to take in foster children but whose religious beliefs prevent it from working with same-sex couples.

And in New York, a judge dismissed a case brought by New Hope Family Services after the state labeled its policy of prioritizing married heterosexuals discriminatory. New Hope, unlike some of the other charities, doesn’t take any government funding.

Roger Brooks, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom representing New Hope, said it will appeal.

“The bottom line of the First Amendment is people of different convictions and different faiths should be able to live out those faiths,” Mr. Brooks said.

The organizations say they’re not preventing LGBTQ individuals and couples from opportunities — there are numerous other groups that will work with them — but say children will be hurt if faith-based organizations are chased out of the environment, leaving fewer options for families to be recruited.

Mr. Reaves points to groups in Illinois, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia that he said already have been forced to shut down.

“These faith-based organizations are better able to serve some kids who are in challenging situations,” the Becket attorney said, noting that faith-based groups statistically place children with special needs at a high rate.

Currey Cook, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a pro-LGBT group, says religious charities are usually working under agreements with the government to provide services, so they must follow the same non-discrimination policies officials are bound to.

“These are contracts in all of these situations that the state, city or country puts out for people to bid to and sign, so this isn’t a situation where you are entitled to something,” Mr. Cook said.

Some states are pushing back.

Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma have passed laws to allow the groups to continue to contract with the states without violating their faith, according to Mr. Reaves.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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