[NEW YORK, August 24, 2020] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has joined the leaders of other major religious groups in signing a friend of the court brief in support of the City of Philadelphia in Fulton v. Philadelphia, a case now before the United States Supreme Court. He has done so to affirm the commitment of The Episcopal Church to both equal protection of the law for LGBTQ persons and appropriate protections for religious liberty.
Fulton involves a suit brought against the City of Philadelphia by Catholic Social Services (CSS). CSS, which contracted with the City to help administer the City’s foster care program, refuses to license same-sex couples as foster parents in violation of the City’s nondiscrimination policies. CSS claims that its right to the free exercise of religion exempts it from complying with those policies in carrying out the foster care program. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling in the City’s favor in 2019, and CSS appealed to the Supreme Court.
Curry, in his capacity as Presiding Bishop and in exercising his responsibility to speak on behalf of The Episcopal Church and to “speak God’s word to the church and the world” (Canon I.2.4(a)(2), joined a brief filed by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty that also includes the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Their brief argues that the City’s policy forbidding government contractors from discriminating against same-sex couples wishing to serve as foster parents does not infringe upon the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty, and that such nondiscrimination policies in fact enhance religious liberty by protecting against unequal treatment of foster parents on the basis of their religious beliefs.
“[T]he American experiment contemplates that individuals may not only coexist peacefully in spite of their differences, but may participate in society with equal dignity,” reads the brief signed by Curry. Further, “[g]overnments, religious organizations, and the people have long benefitted from … governmental partnerships with religiously affiliated charitable groups. Indeed, partnerships between the government and faith-based groups playing a role in social services is a strength of this country’s pluralistic tradition. At the same time, no organization—religious or secular—is entitled to veto the government’s choices on how a public program is to be run.”
The General Convention of The Episcopal Church has adopted a series of resolutions over the years calling for the protection of all people regardless of sexual orientation as well as for the protection of every person’s right to religious liberty. These resolutions are grounded in The Episcopal Church’s understanding of the implications of the divine decree in creation, that all human persons are created equally, imago dei, in the image of God, and as such are of equal value, worth and dignity in the eyes of God, a moral reality that should be protected under human law. (Genesis 1:26-27).
The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on November 4. A decision is expected by June 2021.
Support for the Amicus Brief is also based on numerous resolutions of General Convention including:
- 2018-A086: Authorize Marriage Rites and Added Provisions for Same-Sex Couples
- 2018-C022: Support End of Discrimination Against Transgender and Non-Binary People
- 2018-C054: Adopt Guiding Principles for Inclusion of Trans and Nonbinary People
- 2015-A054: Authorize for Trial Use Marriage and Blessing Rites Contained in “Liturgical Resources I”
- 2012-D061: Adopt Statements on Threats Against Sexual Minorities
- 2009-D012: Support Laws that Prohibit Discrimination Based on Gender Identity
- 2006-A095: Reaffirm Support of Gay and Lesbian Persons
- 2003-D020: Oppose Legal Systems Which Violate Human Rights
- 2003-C031: End All Forms of Religious Persecution and War
- 1997-D016: Take Actions to Express Church’s Support of Religious Freedom
- 1988-D024: Support and Pray for Religious Freedom Throughout the World
- 1985-D069: Affirm Guidelines for Working for Religious Liberty
- 1982-B061: Reaffirm the Civil Rights of Homosexuals
- 1976-A071: Support the Right of Homosexuals to Equal Protection of the Law