We Are Open (With Safety Precautions) & Ready To Help:  Click Here To Watched Our Covid-19 Webinar — What Employers Need to Know

Supreme Court Allows Catholic Group to Exclude Foster-care Rights

Written on .

The public and the courts continue to debate whether there should be religious exemptions to LGBT anti-discrimination laws. In other words, there are anti-bias laws that must be enforced, and at the same time there are religious rights that under the law generally require some accommodation. When these two issues collide, the outcome becomes difficult. 

In the most recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, issued in June, Fulton v. Philadelphia, in which the Catholic Social Services lost a city contract to screen foster parents after Philadelphia officials learned that the agency would not work with same-sex couples. Catholic Social Services argued that because the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex marriage, its religious exercise rights entitle it to disregard city policies forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

In an earlier 1990 precedent, Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court ruled that religious believers cannot use the First Amendment to exempt themselves from neutral laws that apply to the public at large. This ruling has been interpreted as reaching the conclusion that the government can enforce generally applicable laws without making an exception for religious groups. In the current case, however, the opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, found a way to rule for the Catholic group's religious rights without issuing a more sweeping ruling favoring religious rights, by pointing to the city contract which contained a clause allowing exceptions to the non-discrimination policies. He therefore concluded that this exception meant the rules were constitutionally suspect because they were not "generally applicable" due to the exceptions allowed. 

There was a concurring opinion by newly appointed Justice Barrett, joined by Justice Kavanaugh, and, importantly, by Justice Breyer. This concurrence suggested that the earlier 1990 precedents limiting religious rights under generally applicable laws should be reviewed, but that it would be unwise to do so before working out legal framework to replace it. Many believe that the Court will be presented in the near future with a case in which the Court will issue such an important ruling, possibly a case where a religious retailer refused to make floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding. Some believe there is a trend at least among the current Court to allow greater religious accommodation. The controversy may also affect current legislation known as the Equality Act dealing with comprehensive LGBT rights, which is to be considered by the U.S. Senate. In Texas, Christian groups are suing the EEOC over Title VII's LGBT anti-discrimination requirements. Christian groups are seeking to represent classes of employers that have religious and non-religious objections to homosexuality or "transgender" behavior. Christian groups have long advocated a strict test that would require the government to show that a neutral law of general applicability that burdens religion at all, must be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling interest. Justices Alito and Thomas advocated in their concurring opinions for this "strict scrutiny" test to apply.

This is part of our August 2021 Newsletter.

Click here to download the newsletter PDF

Get Email Updates

Receive newsletters and alerts directly in your email inbox. Sign up below.

Recent Content

medical healthcare, indoors

Supreme Court Again Upholds Affordable Care Act

California v. Texas, the Supreme Court has again upheld the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often known as ObamaCare. A fede...
sticky notes, wall, indoors

No-match Social Security Letters Discontinued

In the past, the Social Security Administration (SSA) during periods of time has issued so-called "no-match letters" to employers with "a...

Supreme Court Allows Catholic Group to Exclude Foster-care Rights

The public and the courts continue to debate whether there should be religious exemptions to LGBT anti-discrimination laws. In other word...
restroom neon light

EEOC Addresses Controversial LGBT Restroom Policies

A year ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII outlawed workplace bias based on sexual orientation a...
buttons on a table, indoor

Labor Board to Reconsider Employer Restrictions on Wearing Buttons and Other Insignia in the Workplace

Many employers do not like the idea of employees wearing pro-union shirts or buttons on the job. In the past, however, and particularly d...
monopoly houses on a wooden table indoors

Supreme Court Rejects Union Access to Employer's Property in California

A strong ruling for employers' private property rights was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in June in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, No....

Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine

3400 Peachtree Road, Ste 400 / Lenox Towers / Atlanta, GA 30326 /404.365.0900

Where Experience Counts

Thank you for visiting the firm's website. Please note that this website is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute an offer of representation or create an attorney-client relationship with the firm. The firm welcomes receipt of electronic mail but the act of sending electronic mail alone does not create an attorney-client relationship. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include the firm's copyright notice.

© 2020 Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine P.C. | Site By JSM