The City of Philadelphia’s choice to halt a foster care placement agreement with Catholic Social Services (CSS) – due to the fact the spiritual business enterprise refuses to location foster children with same-sex couples – changed into upheld via the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in an opinion issued in advance this week. CSS challenged the metropolis’s policy as a violation of their spiritual liberty rights underneath each the First Amendment and the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act (RFPA) and sought an injunction to require their reinstatement, but the court sided with the metropolis.
Specifically, the court docket observed, with respect to the First Amendment, that the City’s non-discrimination rules were neutral with recognize to religion. Here is an excerpt from the opinion:
The City stands on the firm floor in requiring its contractors to abide through its non-discrimination guidelines whilst administering public services. Under Smith, the First Amendment does now not prohibit government law of religiously influenced behavior so long as that law is not a veiled attempt to suppress disfavored religious ideals. And at the same time as CSS can also assert that the City’s actions were now not driven by means of an honest dedication to equality but as an alternative via antireligious and anti-Catholic bias (and is of path able to introduce extra evidence as this case proceeds), the current record does now not show spiritual persecution or bias. Instead, it indicates up to now the City’s appropriate religion in its attempt to enforce its laws in opposition to discrimination.
As for the Pennsylvania RFPA, which arguably gives greater safety for nonsecular exercising than the First Amendment, the court found that CSS became no longer entitled to an accommodation below the regulation due to the fact – although CSS suffered a big burden beneath the coverage – the City has a compelling hobby in eradicating discrimination.
CSS isn’t probably to succeed on its RFPA claim due to the fact the City’s actions are the least restrictive manner of furthering a compelling government interest. It is black-letter regulation that “removing discrimination” is a compelling interest. And mandating compliance is the least restrictive method of pursuing that hobby.
The government’s interest lies no longer in maximizing the wide variety of establishments that do not discriminate against a covered elegance, but in minimizing—to 0—the number of institutions that do.
The appeals court docket’s ruling affirms an earlier district court docket ruling and may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.