The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Nov. 4 in an important case dealing with religious foster care agencies and their ability to discriminate while accepting taxpayer support.

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, examines whether taxpayer-funded child placement agencies can impose religious litmus tests to reject qualified families and deny children loving homes when the agencies are acting on the government’s behalf.

Americans United says no.

“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.

“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,” Laser added. “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 the door to allowing taxpayer-funded service providers to use religious litmus tests in performing government foster care services.

Americans United filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the case on behalf of Aimee Maddonna, a South Carolina mother, and three other prospective foster families, who shared 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.

A ruling in the case is expected next year.

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