SCOTUS Rules for Religious Liberty in Foster Care Case; Rejects Challenge to Obamacare

Susan Jones | June 17, 2021 | 10:48am EDT
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(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

( - In a unanimous ruling on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court stood up for religious liberty in a case involving foster care and the Catholic Church.

The court, in a separate case, ruled 7-2 that Republican-led states and two individuals lack standing to challenge Obamacare, which means it is here to stay.

In the first case, FULTON ET AL. v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, the court sided unanimously with Catholic Social Services.

According to the opinion:

"The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."

The justices found that Philadelphia's action "burdened CSS’s religious exercise by forcing it either to curtail its mission or to certify same-sex couples as foster parents in violation of its religious beliefs."

The Philadelphia foster care contract includes a non-discrimination requirement, but it also permits exceptions to that requirement at the “sole discretion” of the Commissioner.

"Where such a system of individual exemptions exists, the government may not refuse to extend that system to cases of religious hardship without a compelling reason," the justices said.

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, hailed the ruling:

“Today's decision prohibits government sanctioned discrimination against religious adoption and foster care agencies because of their beliefs about marriage. Catholic adoption agencies have been placing vulnerable children in loving homes for centuries without discriminating based on race, religion, sex, or disability.

"But those agencies have become the latest victim of woke culture as activists seek to push them out of the adoption and foster care space because of their religious values. Those efforts are rooted in an anti-Catholic bigotry that refuses to tolerate pluralistic views and beliefs," McGuire said.

"Thankfully, the Supreme Court has put an end to efforts to close down and cancel the faith-based agencies whose work on behalf of marginalized children is invaluable.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the Supreme Court reaffirmed religious liberty at a time of "growing hostility."

"Despite the pitiful dearth of foster-care agencies in the United States, the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia excluded a faith-based charity from helping to meet the growing need, based upon their religious beliefs that compel them to serve.

“If these and other government leaders really do care for the marginalized and needy as they claim, then they must realize you cannot rob charities of their religious beliefs and still expect their religious works that aid others. It is those very beliefs from which their service springs.

"Increasingly, the Left refuses to tolerate the slightest deviation from their political orthodoxy regardless of who suffers as a result. While we stop to celebrate and thank God that the Supreme Court reaffirmed religious liberty today, we are fully aware and prepared for the attacks of the Left on this fundamental, God-given freedom to continue unabated," Perkins said.

Likewise, Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO, and chief counsel at First Liberty Institute, called the ruling a "tremendous victory for religious liberty."

"Punishing religious organizations for acting consistently with their sincerely held religious beliefs is wrong. The Court ensured that religious adoption providers can continue their centuries-old work serving families and children without suffering government discrimination because they believe that the best home for a child includes a mother and father."

'ACA is here to stay'

In the second major ruling, CALIFORNIA ET AL. v. TEXAS ET AL., the court said the plaintiffs "do not have standing" to challenge Obamacare's essential coverage provision "because they have not shown a past or future injury" stemming from the "specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional."

When it became law in 2010, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required most Americans to purchase minimum essential health insurance coverage and it imposed a monetary penalty on those who failed to do so.

In 2017, amendments to the law effectively nullified the penalty by setting its amount to zero. Subsequently, Texas (along with over a dozen States and two individuals) sued federal officials, claiming that without the penalty, the law’s minimum essential coverage provision, codified at 26 U. S. C. §5000A(a), is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the provision is unconstitutional; that the rest of the Act is not severable from §5000A(a), and an injunction against enforcement of the rest of the Act.

Seven justices said the plaintiffs lacked standing. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay," DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said in reaction to the court's ruling:

"Despite the best efforts of Republicans for the better part of the last decade to roll back, weaken and eliminate this historic law, the Supreme Court once again cemented affordable health care coverage for tens of millions of Americans and the over 133 million Americans living with preexisting conditions.

"While today is a significant victory for the American people, we know that the fight is not over. The ACA is only the start. Thanks to President Biden and the American Rescue Plan, we’ve already seen historic progress this year with more Americans now covered under the ACA than ever before. Democrats believe that access to affordable health care is a right, not a privilege, and we will not stop fighting to expand access and lower costs for even more American families,” Harrison said.

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