WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide if foster care agencies must be willing to place children with gay and lesbian couples, another indication that it may be ready to give religious objectors greater freedom to skirt laws with which they disagree.
The dispute from Philadelphia is another in a series of challenges brought by Catholic and other religious groups and individuals that object to same-sex marriage.
The justices already are considering three major religious liberty cases this year on state funding for religious schools, their right to fire teachers despite employment discrimination laws, and challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers offer free insurance coverage for contraceptives.
As part of its consideration, the court could consider overruling a 30-year-old precedent limiting religious freedom that was written by conservative icon Antonin Scalia. The case, Employment Division v. Smith, has been a target of fellow conservatives since it was decided in 199
That would continue a trend in which the high court has looked kindly on religion – making churches eligible for some public funds, upholding public prayer at government meetings, exempting religious objectors from laws regarding contraception and same-sex marriage, and allowing a mammoth Latin cross to remain on government land.
“Just as no LGBT couples are prevented from marrying because a particular church does not perform same-sex weddings, no LGBT couples are prevented from fostering because a particular church cannot provide an endorsement,” lawyers for Catholic Social Services said in court papers. “Yet many churches will be prevented from exercising religion by caring for at-risk children, all due to a disagreement with the government about marriage.”