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Plaintiff in Supreme Court’s Religious Liberty Altering Smith Decision Asks Justices to Protect Faith-Based Adoption Agencies

June 3, 2020

News Release
For Immediate Release: 6.3.20
Contact: Lacey McNiel,
Direct: 972-941-4453

Plaintiff in Supreme Court’s Religious Liberty Altering Smith Decision Asks Justices to Protect Faith-Based Adoption Agencies
First Liberty Institute files friend-of-the-court brief in key religious liberty case at the Supreme Court of the United States

Washington, DC—First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the government can ban religious organizations from serving children and families because of their religious beliefs about marriage.  The brief was submitted on behalf of Galen Black, a plaintiff from the landmark 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division v. Smith, in which the Supreme Court reshaped the First Amendment landscape and reduced religious liberty protections for people, like Black, whose religious beliefs are burdened by generally applicable laws.

You can read the brief here.

“The Constitution prohibits government from punishing adoption providers for acting consistently with their sincerely held religious belief that the best home for a child includes a mother and father,” said Keisha Russell, Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “Freedom loses when the government decides which religious beliefs are acceptable.  The Court should ensure that religious adoption providers can continue their centuries-old work serving families and children without suffering government discrimination because of their beliefs.”

In 2018, officials with the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania prohibited foster children from being placed with families who work with Catholic Social Services (“CSS”), threatening to permanently ban CSS from Philadelphia’s foster care program unless it abandons its longstanding religious beliefs about marriage and family.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied CSS’s request for a preliminary injunction, deciding that under the Smith decision the City did not have to accommodate CSS’s religious beliefs.

According to First Liberty’s brief, “Forcing a Catholic institution to alter its well-established religious beliefs on marriage would be seen by many as profoundly disrespectful. . . .  [C]ontinuing the City’s relationship with CSS is the only way Philadelphia can demonstrate respect and tolerance for differing views.”

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 About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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