Parents Sue Philadelphia for Banning Catholic Agency From Placing Kids With Foster Families

Family walking in the park.
Family walking in the park. | (Photo: Pixaby)

Foster parents in Philadelphia have filed a lawsuit against the city over its new policy banning Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes because the city regards their biblical beliefs on same-sex marriage as discriminatory.

In the lawsuit, Sharonell Fulton, et al v. City of Philadelphia, the plaintiffs are demanding that the city stop prohibiting the Christian group from providing social services, specifically placement for foster children, because of their stance on same-sex marriage. Becket, a religious liberty law firm, is representing Fulton and other foster parents.

The city of Philadelphia issued a call in March for 300 new foster families to house the approximately 6,000 children and teenagers who are in the city's foster care system. That same month the city stopped Catholic Social Services from being able to place children in foster homes due to its so-called non-discrimination policy. 

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Philadelphia is reportedly threatening to make the move permanent on June 30.

"Foster homes are sitting empty, even as the city begs for more families to help in its foster care crisis," Becket said in a statement shared with The Christian Post on Thursday.

Sharonell Fulton, a foster mother who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said: "What justice is there in taking stable, loving homes away from children? If the city cuts off Catholic Social Services from foster care, foster moms like me won't have the help and support they need to care for special-needs kids."

"I have relied on Catholic Social Services for support for years, and the city is taking away this help and causing harm and heartache to countless families like mine."

When asked for a response to the lawsuit, the Philadelphia Department of Health Services declined to comment directly, but said in a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Thursday that they "are genuinely appreciative of the services that Catholic Social Services provides."

Philadelphia Department of Health Services added that while it appreciates the Catholic organization's work, it was severing all ties because "those services must be provided in a manner consistent with certain core city principles, including our non-discrimination rules."

"As Catholic Social Services works on the city's behalf, we cannot allow discrimination against qualified couples who are ready to take on this important role, simply because of who they are."

A spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in March that they had no plans to change their foster child placement practices when the city stopped them from participating in March, explaining that the agency cannot "provide services in any manner or setting that would violate its institutional integrity, core values, and Catholic beliefs."

Rod Dreher, who writes for The American Conservative and is author of The New York Times best-seller The Benedict Option, blasted the city's position.

"The city of Philadelphia would rather have orphaned children taken away from Christian foster parents who rely on Catholic Social Services, and leave other orphaned children outside of families, than tolerate Catholic beliefs," he wrote on his blog Thursday.

"Note well that neither Catholic Social Services nor the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is trying to stop the placement of children with gay couples; it's only declining to do so itself based on its longstanding religious convictions."

He added: "The cruel pettiness and anti-Christian hatred shown by the cultural left in cases like this shocks the conscience."

"Such is the "tolerance" they told us they wanted. Don't be fooled. The cultural left will not stop until all Catholics (and other Christians) to the right of gay Jesuits are driven out of the public square. And then they'll only stop their crusade long enough to catch their breath."

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services have been serving children throughout Philadelphia for more than 100 years and is presently serving more than 100 children. No family or individual has ever complained that the agency's Catholic mission prevented them from fostering or adopting a child, according to Becket.

"For a city with so much history, the people in charge have a pretty short memory," said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket.

"For a century, Catholic Social Services has been serving children in Philadelphia. Those children are the ones hurt by the city's actions."

A court hearing is expected to occur later this year.

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter Follow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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