Jun 17, 2021

Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia:

“Today, the Supreme Court decided that Philadelphia had to allow Catholic Social Services to exclude LGBTQ families from its publicly funded foster care program. But the narrow decision, which turned on the specific facts of the case, means that religious extremists did not get the sweeping free pass they were seeking to discriminate wherever and however they want.

“Nine justices could agree on this decision because it was so narrow. The court concluded that because Philadelphia allowed individualized exemptions from its non-discrimination requirements in its foster care program, it had to exempt Catholic Social Services. Significantly, the court declined to rewrite the First Amendment to grant a broad license to discriminate in the name of religion. The court also acknowledged the importance of non-discrimination laws and specifically respected the dignity of LGBTQ people.

“We at Americans United will continue to work for real religious freedom, equality and the right to live and believe as we choose. The vast majority of Americans believe our laws should not allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others – and certainly vulnerable children in foster care. Now more than ever, Congress needs to pass the Do No Harm Act to help prevent religious freedom from being misused to harm others.”

Background: In Fulton v. Philadelphia, Americans United filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of four prospective foster families who were turned away because they couldn’t pass the religious tests of taxpayer-funded foster care agencies contracted by the government. Those families include Americans United client Aimee Maddonna, a Catholic mother of three from South Carolina, and Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin, a married same-sex couple from Texas who are represented by Americans United and Lambda Legal.


Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.