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MAP report: Religious exemptions in child welfare would harm millions
2020-08-21

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On Aug. 19, the Movement Advancement Project ( MAP ) released "The High Stakes in the Fulton Case: Undermining the Vital Role of Child Welfare Laws & Regulations in Protecting America's Children."

This report highlights what is at stake in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this fall related to taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies. The report is released in partnership with Children's Rights, Family Equality, Lambda Legal, National Center on Adoption and Permanency, the North American Council on Adoptable Children and Voice for Adoption.

The case came about after the City of Philadelphia learned in March 2018 that Catholic Social Services—which the city had hired to provide foster care services to children in child welfare—refused to license same-sex couples despite signing a contract prohibiting agencies from engaging in anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

The report examines the potential outcomes of Fulton. For example,:

—Religious child welfare agencies could be given a right to demand taxpayer funding while rejecting qualified and loving parents simply because they are Jewish, Catholic, LGBTQ or single parents.

—Nearly every religiously affiliated social service agency that receives government funding—such as job training programs, emergency shelters and more—might claim a right to discriminate.

—If the government is unable to set and enforce the terms of its contracts, even when paying agencies with taxpayer money, it would make it nearly impossible for state and local governments to set standards for the provision of public services.

—Religious agencies might be able to claim a religious exemption to a wide array of regulations and laws, including those that protect public health and safety—like building codes, sanitation requirements and food-safety regulations.

"Child welfare agencies should always put the safety and wellbeing of children first," MAP Executive Director Ineke Mushovic said in a statement. "But if taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies can pick and choose parents and families based on the agency's religious beliefs—rather than whether or not children are placed in qualified, loving homes—it puts children at risk. And it's not just child welfare agencies: how the Supreme Court rules could provide a license to discriminate in other areas including homeless shelters, food banks, early childhood education."

The full report is at LGBTMap.org/2020-fulton-report .


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