July 16, 2018
The city of Philadelphia is desperate for foster families. So why is it trying to close two organizations dedicated to finding them?
Ask U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker. In a ruling late Friday, she decided that it was more important to appease LGBT activists than find homes for hurting kids. In an opinion that's not only at odds with the Constitution, but with the city's foster crisis, Tucker ruled that Philadelphia was completely justified in strong-arming groups like Catholic Social Services (CSS) who don't think they should have to give up their religious freedom to partner with the city on foster care. Philadelphia's leaders disagreed, insisting that the only way it would let either organization work with the city is if it gave up its views on natural marriage.
According to Tucker, the city has a "legitimate interest" in ensuring "that the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents." That ridiculous, FRC's Travis Weber points out, since 96 percent of the organizations the city partners with already agree to put kids in LGBT homes. "When 28 out of 30 agencies serving children in Philadelphia are happy to place children with same-sex couples, there is simply no reason to force the two who won't to violate their beliefs in order to continue to work with the city. But that's exactly what the court did -- and despite professing 'tolerance,' turned that concept on its head."
Lori Windham, the attorney with Becket Law who represented Catholic Social Services, agrees with Tucker that foster children deserve loving homes, but, she points out, "the city has put politics above the children, and today the court allowed the city's discriminatory actions to continue -- a decision we will immediately appeal." (Bethany Christian Services was another organization targeted by the city but decided not to join the suit.)
Apart from being the right policy for children, CSS's is also the healthiest one. The social science is irrefutable: the best decision for kids is placing them with a married mom and dad. In what is largely considered the "gold standard" study on the matter, Dr. Mark Regnerus found "that children raised by gay or lesbian parents on average are at a significant disadvantage when compared to children raised by the intact family of their married, biological mother and father." (To read why, check out this summary by FRC's Peter Sprigg.)
Foster care is not -- and should never be -- about adults. It's about giving children the best chance to succeed in life. Republicans in the U.S. House seem to understand that, which is why people like Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) fought last week to add the Inclusion Act to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. It guarantees that organizations like Bethany Christian Services not only have the freedom to operate by their beliefs, but that birth moms like Kelly Clemente have the comfort of knowing that their children are being raised by people who share their faith. "That's really all [our bill does]," Rep. Aderholt told me on "Washington Watch" last Thursday, "to keep religious groups from being discriminated against."
Meanwhile, if the city doesn't renew its contract, Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia will close. And if you're wondering who the losers of that decision will be, try the 6,000 boys and girls in the city's foster care system. Unfortunately, John David Danielson writes in a sobering piece for the Federalist, "The only thing that matters to municipal officials in Philadelphia is that Catholic Social Services must bend the knee and abandon its deeply held religious beliefs. If orphans and abused children must go without foster homes to make a point, so be it."
For more on this debate and the importance of the Inclusion Act, don't miss this new piece in the Hill by FRC's Mary Beth Waddell.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.