On June 17th, the United States Supreme Court issued an important win for religious freedom in the case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The case arose due to the City of Philadelphia freezing all referrals to foster families working with Catholic Social Services. The City began requiring foster care providers to place children with same-sex couples. But because Catholic Social Services operates consistently with the Catholic Church’s teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, it couldn’t agree to the new requirement. So, Catholic Social Services — along with Sharonell Fulton, who has cared for more than 40 foster children in the past 25 years — filed a lawsuit against the City. With the Supreme Court delivering a favorable decision on behalf of religious freedom, it means that the City cannot exclude Catholic Social Services and Sharonell from serving children and families in their communities because of their religious beliefs.
In addition to providing momentum for other foster care and adoption providers to potentially win their cases in the lower courts, such as Alliance Defending Freedom clients New Hope Family Services and Catholic Charities West Michigan, Fulton could have set the stage for the Court to take the case of another longtime ADF client: Barronelle Stutzman. That is why just a day after the decision in Fulton, Barronelle, with the help of ADF, filed a supplemental brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to decide her case directly in the wake of Fulton. Unfortunately, on July 2nd the Supreme Court denied Barronelle’s request, failing to follow its important decision in Fultonwith what could have been an even bigger win for religious freedom in Barronelle’s case.
Barronelle was targeted by her state government after politely declining to design custom floral arrangements celebrating a longtime customer’s same-sex ceremony. By ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services and Sharonell Fulton under existing caselaw, there was hope the Court would take Barronelle’s case and rule on some big legal questions that Fulton left unresolved. Having her case denied by the Court leaves our First Amendment right to religious freedom in a fractured state, as multiple lower courts have failed to uphold the freedom of Christian creative professionals. Although the outcome of this case is disheartening, the critical work of protecting the First Amendment freedoms for all Americans must continue. Thankfully, other courts, such as the Arizona Supreme Court and the 8th Circuit, have ruled that the government cannot force creative professionals to create artistic expression that violates their religious beliefs. Let’s pray that the Supreme Court will eventually join those courts in affirming the constitutionally protected freedom of creative professionals like Barronelle to live and work consistently with their most deeply held beliefs.
Here is how you can pray for Barronelle and other cases like hers:
Pray for Barronelle and her husband, Darold, that the Lord would grant them peace and keep their faith in Him strong as they process the court’s decision and its implications for Barronelle’s business and their personal assets.
Pray that our judicial system at the state and federal level will consistently protect the constitutional right of religious freedom from ideological agendas.
Pray for state legislators and Congressional leaders to take courageous legislative actions to protect religious freedom from those who want to banish religion from the public square.
Pray that society would recognize that religious freedom is the cornerstone for ensuring all our freedoms.
Pray that Christians would be encouraged by Barronelle’s example to stand for truth despite facing persecution from the State (Philippians 1:12-14).
What is a Generational Win?
Each generation has the responsibility to protect the freedoms of the next. That is why ADF focuses on generational wins. These victories change the law and culture of the nation and are sustained by deliberate action so that the victory endures for future generations.
- Life is safeguarded
- Religious Freedom prevails
- All can Speak Freely
- Marriage and Family are protected
- Parental Rights are guaranteed