San Francisco Board Can Criticize Vatican, Court Rules

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors did not violate the separation of church and state when it passed a resolution criticizing the Vatican for opposing adoption by same-sex couples, a federal appeals court has ruled.

In 2006, the Vatican issued a decree ordering Catholic Charities not to place adoptive children with same-sex couples. The city immediately passed a resolution condemning the Vatican’s “hateful and discriminatory rhetoric,” and said the church stance was “an insult to San Francisco.”

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights sued, claiming that passage of the resolution showed unconstitutional hostility to Catholicism. A federal judge threw out the suit, and a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

“The Board’s focus was on same-sex couples, not Cathlics,” Judge Richard Paez said June 4 in Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights v. San Francisco. The court asserted that the resolution was meant to protect gay and lesbian couples from discrimination, not to show disapproval of Catholicism.

The Catholic League said the decision will be appealed.