This week the U.S. Supreme Court took on the case of whether taxpayer-funded agencies can use religion to discriminate. Two years ago, the city of Philadelphia rightfully decided to cut ties with Catholic Social Services (CSS) after a report detailed that they were openly prohibiting same-sex couples from fostering children. CSS and a number of foster parents sued the city, claiming it violated their first amendment rights to religious freedom. Now the case will be heard by the SCOTUS.
Texas has its own sordid history passing legislation that codifies discrimination in the child welfare arena under the guise of religious freedom. In 2017, Republican State Representative James Frank filed and ultimately passed HB 3859. HB 3859 allows faith-based organizations to deny foster children home placements and healthcare services and to refuse capable, deserving parents from fostering if they violate the organization’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Following a chorus of outcries from LBGTQ organizations and foster care system employees, House Democrats put up a strong fight on the floor in opposition to this bill.
Texas has an infamously overcrowded and understaffed foster care system, a problem that is found across the country. Between 400,000 to 500,000 children live in foster care in the United States, many in derelict facilities. It is extremely difficult to find capable, loving, willing adults to foster each and every child in need. The thought of allowing state-affiliated agencies to prohibit loving foster parents from offering homes to children in desperate need of stability is tremendously upsetting.
Religious organizations are not required to partner with the state. Therefore, to receive taxpayer funding, organizations should at the very least adhere to common-sense anti-discriminatory federal regulations.
Unfortunately, the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court may very well use their majority to defend regressive, discriminatory foster cases, claiming they are in fact “expanding religious freedoms.” Ruling in favor of CSS would loosen anti-discriminatory policies at the expense of real children in need of loving homes.
We cannot afford to backslide from our already limited LGBTQ protections.
Photo courtesy of NBC News.