Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia


Taxpayer-funded foster care agencies should never be allowed to use religious litmus tests to deny these children loving homes because a qualified parent is the “wrong” religion or an LGBTQ person. Americans United is fighting to prevent religious freedom from being misused to justify discrimination in the foster care system, which harms children, prospective parents, and religious freedom. Learn more about AU's work on religious discrimination and foster care




On Nov. 4, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Fulton v. The City of Philadelphia, a case involving a taxpayer-funded foster care agency that wants the court to create a constitutional right to misuse religious freedom and discriminate against qualified families because they are LGBTQ or don’t follow an agency’s religious tenets.

In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia learned that two agencies the city had hired to provide foster care services were refusing, based on their religious beliefs, to accept same-sex couples as foster parents. Because the agencies’ actions violated nondiscrimination requirements in the city’s contracts with all foster care agencies, Philadelphia informed the two agencies it would no longer refer children to their care. One agency agreed to comply with the nondiscrimination policy, but the other, Catholic Social Services (CSS), refused and instead sued the city.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a lower court decision in favor of Philadelphia, but CSS asked the Supreme Court to hear this case. Philadelphia continues to contract with CSS for other foster care services including case management and operating group homes because CSS is willing to comply with all contract requirements in those areas.

In August 2020, AU filed an amicus brief on behalf of four prospective foster families who shared their devastating experiences of contacting child-placement agencies in hopes of helping vulnerable 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. 

These families include Aimee Maddonna, a South Carolina mother of three with a family legacy of helping children in foster care. Aimee was told by a taxpayer-funded foster care agency that she was a perfect fit to volunteer with children -- until she told the agency she’s Catholic. The agency turned her away because she’s not an evangelical Protestant, as the agency requires. Learn more about Aimee’s case here