Supreme Court agrees to review religious liberty dispute over foster care and same-sex couples

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it has agreed to hear a case involving a Catholic social services agency that sued the city of Philadelphia for cutting ties with them over their refusal to place children in foster care with same-sex couples.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city, which put a freeze on the taxpayer funding for the Catholic Social Services foster care system. The agency claims this violated their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech.

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The organization, which court records show placed more than 250 children into foster care in 2017, is one of nearly two dozen private agencies contracted by the city for foster care placement. The city opted not to renew the contract over their policy, which also says that unmarried couples who live together may not foster children.

“I’m relieved to hear that the Supreme Court will weigh in on faith-based adoption and foster care,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the agency. “Over the last few years, agencies have been closing their doors across the country, and all the while children are pouring into the system. We are confident that the Court will realize that the best solution is the one that has worked in Philadelphia for a century — all hands on deck for foster kids.”

The Support Center for Child Advocates and Philadelphia Family Pride intervened in the lawsuit, under the representation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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“This case could have profound consequences for the more than 400,000 children in foster care across the country," Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. "We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children."

The case will be argued in the fall of 2020.