Nov 02, 2020

In the case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that taxpayer-funded child-placement agencies cannot use religious litmus tests to reject qualified families and deny children loving homes when the agencies are acting on the government’s behalf.

“Our government has a duty to protect vulnerable children in the foster care system and ensure they are placed in safe homes with loving families,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “Taxpayer-funded child-placement agencies should never be allowed to use religious litmus tests to turn away qualified parents who are the ‘wrong’ religion or are LGBTQ. 

“The Supreme Court should make clear that our government cannot misuse religious freedom to allow child-placement agencies with government foster care contracts to reject qualified families like Americans United client Aimee Maddonna,” Laser said. “A mother of three with a family legacy of helping children in foster care, Aimee was told by a taxpayer-funded agency that she was a perfect fit to help children in foster care – until she told the agency she’s Catholic. The agency turned her away because she’s not an evangelical Protestant, as the agency requires.

“If the Supreme Court insists that religious child-placement agencies and other social-service providers have a constitutional right to demand government contracts, it must also allow the government to ensure that these agencies live up to their contractual agreements not to discriminate. The government funds private organizations to deliver countless health and social services to help people in need. Millions of vulnerable people who rely on these services could face discrimination if the Supreme Court opens to door to allowing taxpayer-funded service providers to use religious litmus tests in performing government foster care services.

“Religious freedom is a shield that protects all of our rights, not a sword used to harm people. But harming children is what happens if the government allows religion to be a reason for denying kids loving homes,” Laser said.

In Fulton v. Philadelphia, Americans United filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of Maddonna and three other prospective foster families, who share their devastating experiences of contacting child-placement agencies in hopes of helping children – only to be turned away because they couldn’t pass the religious litmus tests of the agencies hired by the government to find homes for those children.

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.