By Erin Jobes
Philadelphia courts ruled in favor of the city, suspending a contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for choosing not to renounce their faith by letting same-sex couples be foster or adoptive parents.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has a contract with many private foster care agencies in Philadelphia, in which all agencies are expected to follow the rules detailed in a services contract. In March, DHS Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa closed CSS’ ability to bring in referrals due to an investigation into why they would not allow same-sex couples to be foster parents.
After DHS realized CSS was restricting foster care and adoption services solely to heterosexual couples, they suspended their contract with CSS.
Feeling as though their religious freedom was being threatened, CSS filed a lawsuit in May this year.
With three days of testimony, the city arguing that CSS violated their contract with DHS, and CSS arguing that DHS was discriminating and violating their religious freedom, the final verdict stated the city was right in suspending the contract with CSS.
Much of the trial was arguing whether foster care was a public service.
Co-counsel for CSS, Mark Rienzi explained, “This was church work long before it was city work. Now, what the city is saying is, you've got to violate your religious beliefs if you want to keep working with kids.”
This is not the first time something like this has happened. Bethany Christian Services, also based in Philadelphia, had their contract suspended for refusing to provide services to a gay couple.
The city argues they are not biased because the foster care services are different denominations, but it seems the two Christian agencies out of the twenty-eight total agencies in Philadelphia were targeted.
Lori Windham, one of the attorneys representing CSS, stated biases reached the “highest levels of government.” She also said Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney made rude comments on his Twitter before he became mayor.
This has had a ripple effect all over the country. Recently a Catholic Charities affiliate in Illinois had closed down instead of bowing to the government’s moral standards. Many other states have passed laws giving certain organizations the ability to continue to provide these selective services despite legalization of same-sex marriage. Michigan will soon have a similar trial to Philadelphia's due to a same-sex couple’s anger over the fact the state works with organizations that do not allow these couples to be foster parents.