The U.S. Supreme Court, in laying down its unanimous 9-0 decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, loudly proclaimed that the basic human and civil rights of LGBTQ people are superseded and trumped by the “deeply held” religious beliefs of bigoted groups and individuals.
The case involves Catholic Social Services, a child adoption and foster care agency in Philadelphia, which sued the city after it refused to refer cases to the agency because it was in violation of local nondiscrimination laws by not considering LGBTQ foster parents. Though this Supreme Court ruling applies only to this specific case, the court ruled:
Under the circumstances here, the City does not have a compelling interest in refusing to contract with CSS. CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; and does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.
The case validates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which states that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” which was applied to corporations in the 2014 Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
The five men voting in the majority in that case denied the rights of women — most particularly working-class women employees at “closely-held” for-profit corporations (i.e., family owned with a limited number of shareholders), which includes most U.S. corporations — control over the reproductive freedoms generally extended to women at other companies.
The case concerned the owning families of the national chain of craft stores, Hobby Lobby, plus a Christian bookstore chain, and Conestoga, a Mennonite family-owned woodworking company who claimed and won the argument that the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and in particular, a few specific contraceptive devices covered by health insurance companies, violated their religious beliefs.
The decision follows former 2012 presidential candidate Willard “Mitt” Romney’s assertion that “Corporations are people my friend,” and clearly shows that million- and billion-dollar corporate families certainly exist more humanly (i.e., they are more of a person) and have more rights than workers.
According to Justice Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case:
The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.
Before this week’s Fulton v. City of Philadelphia decision, Catholic Charities of Buffalo, N.Y., terminated its adoption program in 2018 rather than comply with New York’s anti-discrimination laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Catholic Charities of Rockford, Ill., an adoption and foster care agency, reached a similar decision in 2011 when it shut its doors rather than place young people in the guardianship of LGBTQ people or in same-sex-headed households. Illinois law mandates that any agency receiving state funds cannot discriminate against same-sex couples, and since Catholic Charities accepts such funding, it must abide by the terms of the law.
In those cases, the good news was that young people were no longer filtered through the millennia-old Roman Catholic church’s cult of dogma that, likely, the historical Jesus would not have condoned and would not have approved if he’d had the chance to understand what was mandated in his name.
For example, according to the Roman church Catechism:
Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are gravely disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of love [i.e., offspring]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
Rather than tossing out the babies while retaining the bigoted bath water, the larger Roman Catholic church must rethink its outdated and self-destructive policies, lest it find itself tossed to the trash heap of history.
If the Vatican truly wishes to protect young people, it must initiate policies to turn over to local law enforcement agencies priests and other personnel suspected of child sexual abuse and immediately terminate their service once charges are proven. In addition, any church official found to have covered up such allegations must be terminated and reported to law enforcement.
The Vatican must also permit women to achieve the highest ranks within the hierarchy — including seminarians, priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope. Church patriarchal domination and dictatorial control must end!
The church, since it clearly engages in political issues, must pay its fair share of local, state, and national taxes. The church currently may have morally unjust exemptions from governmental anti-discrimination policies, but it must no longer have tax exemptions.
And hey, how’s that abolition of marriage for church officials working for you? Oh, I thought so.
Well then, marriage must be approved for church personnel with the adult partner of their mutual choice.
In addition, Roman Catholic conversion therapy — the brutal and inhumane practice of attempting to “convert” LGBTQ Catholics to heterosexuality and gender normativity, must end immediately with a full apology issued from the highest levels of the church for the damage to body and soul it has wrought.
Though the Roman Catholic faithful and religious scholars have touted Pope Francis as “The Liberal Pope,” and as the change agent of liberal reforms — and while he talks a good game — he has taken little real action in bringing the church out of the Middle Ages and into even the 16th century, let alone the 21st Christian century.
But possibly the time has come for the Roman Catholic church to fade into actual irrelevance, as it has long since faded virtually.
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author The What, The So What, and The Now What of Social Justice Education (Peter Lang Publishers), and Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).