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Fulton v. City of Philadelphia: Religious Freedom Wins at the U.S. Supreme Court!

Update: ADF is Standing Up for Faith-Based Providers and Creative Professionals like Barronelle Stutzman Across the Country. Your support helps defend religious freedom.

Every child in need of adoption deserves a loving and stable home.

Faith-based adoption and foster-care providers should be celebrated for finding loving homes for thousands of children. They certainly should not be targeted and shut down for their faith.

But in some places in the United States, that is exactly what’s happening.

Faith-based child welfare providers are being prevented from serving children and families because some government officials disagree with their beliefs. This anti-religious discrimination not only violates the First Amendment, it takes a dangerous toll on some of the most vulnerable among us.

Shutting down faith-based adoption and foster-care providers means fewer children will have a chance to find a loving home.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom is defending faith-based adoption and foster-care providers like New Hope Family Services and Catholic Charities West Michigan against these discriminatory practices.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that one city can’t discriminate against a faith-based, foster-care agency. And that decision should mean that New Hope Family Services and Catholic Charities West Michigan can’t be discriminated against either.

Philadelphia Policy Prevented Sharonell Fulton from Helping Children in Need

Many of Philadelphia’s children are desperate to find a loving and caring family.

Yet, in 2018 the city froze all referrals to Catholic Social Services. That means it also froze all referrals to 100 different foster families that the agency serves—including Sharonell Fulton, who has cared for more than 40 foster children.


Because Philadelphia disagrees with Catholic Social Services’ religious views on marriage.

It didn’t matter that, on an average day, Catholic Social Services served more than 120 children in foster care. Nor did it matter that more homes for children are desperately needed.

Philadelphia put politics ahead of kids, kicking loving foster parents like Sharonell to the curb while making it harder to find loving homes for children who desperately need them.

This is wrong and unconstitutional.

So, Sharonell and Catholic Social Services asked the Supreme Court to end Philadelphia’s discriminatory policy. And the Supreme Court unanimously found that the city discriminated against Catholic Social Services based on its religious views. This is a win for religious freedom that every American benefits from.

But, unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.

Faith-based adoption and foster-care providers are at risk

Laws demanding that faith-based adoption providers act against their beliefs have forced Catholic Charities to cease their foster-care and adoption ministries in Boston; Washington, D.C.; Illinois; San Francisco; and Buffalo.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia could impact thousands of vulnerable children and the fate of faith-based providers, including these Alliance Defending Freedom clients:


New Hope Family Services

Family Picture

New Hope Family Services is a nonprofit Christian ministry in New York that serves as a pregnancy resource center and adoption provider. Since 1965, it has placed more than 1,000 children in loving adoptive homes.

New York’s Office of Child and Family Services demanded New Hope violate its religious beliefs or shut down its adoption ministry.

So, ADF filed a lawsuit on New Hope’s behalf.


Catholic Charities West Michigan

Children Laying on Grass

Catholic Charities West Michigan is one of Michigan’s oldest and largest foster-care and adoption providers. It contracts with the state to serve vulnerable children, overseeing up to 300 children in foster care every day.

For years, Michigan worked with Catholic Charities while respecting its beliefs. But in 2018, a new state attorney general said the state would stop working with foster-care and adoption agencies who—consistent with their religious beliefs—desire to place children in homes with a married mother and father.

ADF filed a lawsuit against the state, asking it to stop its officials from illegally targeting Catholic Charities and forcing it to close because of its religious beliefs.

More Than Just Adoption Providers

After over eight years in court, Barronelle Stutzman is still waiting for justice.

But what does a talented floral artist in Washington state have to do with adoption and foster-care providers?

Now that the Court has ruled in Fulton, it should address a different question: whether creative professionals—like Barronelle—have the ability to live consistently with their faith in the public square.

Barronelle is waiting for the second time to see whether the Supreme Court will take up her case. She has waited far too long for justice. The Court should take up her case immediately.

Barronelle Stutzman

Every Supreme Court decision has consequences. We’re thankful that the Court protected Sharonell’s rights. We hope that the Justices will do the same for Barronelle.

We’ve been protecting Barronelle’s religious freedom since 2013. And we’re currently defending the freedoms of faith-based adoption providers in two different states.

Will you join us?

Any gift you make today will help strengthen our efforts to protect religious freedom for Americans everywhere.

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