At a time when more than 400,000 children are in foster care nationwide, the city of Philadelphia is threatening to cut ties with Catholic Social Services because of the group’s policy against placing foster children in same-sex households.
On the surface, one might say this is a classic case of state vs. church: The city must uphold its policies forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And CSS must honor Catholic teaching and not place children in LGBTQ households.
On a deeper level, however, the issue cuts right to the core of religious liberty. Although the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom has always meant that the state couldn’t impose a religion upon its people, secularism would seem to qualify as a religion inasmuch as the state’s policies are really beliefs — articles of faith based upon far less information and experience than the church’s. There’s no dogma like no-dogma, if I may quote myself.
In fact, CSS has never been petitioned by a gay couple, according to a complaint that the group and three foster parents in its network have filed against the city in federal court.
The clash began in March after the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a gay couple seeking to adopt had been turned away by another religious-based agency, Bethany Christian Services. Soon thereafter, the city’s Department of Human Services suspended foster-care intake with both Bethany and CSS, pending an investigation by Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations.