‘Fulton’ Decision Teaches Important Lesson for Catholic Educators | Catholic National Register

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“If Catholic schools ignore their vocation and lose their salty character,” one analyst warns, “they will have a much harder time convincing students, parents and judges that they need religious accommodations.

Leading religious freedom lawyer says Catholic educators can learn important lesson from recent Supreme Court ruling Fulton decision, which enabled Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to maintain its faithfully Catholic practices. The lesson: Have courage and stand firm in the Faith.

Like Catholic social and medical services, Catholic education faces increasing threats from the Biden administration and many states and localities due to Catholic beliefs about the sanctity of life, the human person and the wedding. While educators may be tempted to compromise on programs like women’s athletics or on policies like moral standards for teachers, this violates the very mission of Catholic education, and there is no point in it. escape from confrontation with gender ideology. The best legal protection is to be constantly and firmly attached to the Catholic faith.

“As Fulton shows that religious freedom is stronger when Catholic apostolates are part of a long historical tradition and have the courage of their convictions, ”said Eric Kniffin, legal advisor to the Cardinal Newman Society and lawyer for Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP. He also previously worked for the Becket Fund and the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice.

“On the contrary,” he warns, “if Catholic schools ignore their vocation and lose their salty taste, they will have a much harder time convincing students, parents and judges that they need religious accommodation. .

The Court’s decision of June 17 in Fulton v. City of philadelphia protects the right of Catholic Social Services to continue to receive funding from the City of Philadelphia, without giving in to the city’s demand to place children in foster care with same-sex couples. The court’s deference to the mission and beliefs of Catholic social services, Kniffin says, is heartening given the efforts of the Biden administration to impose broad accommodations for homosexuality and transgender behavior in schools and colleges in distorting the non-discrimination provisions of the Federal Law on Education of Title IX.

Last Wednesday, the Biden administration published a “Dear Educator” letter insisting that “Title IX protection against sex discrimination encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”, despite the fact that Congress never intended that the law has such a meaning. Monday, the court decreases consider a Virginia school board’s call to preserve the privacy of boys ‘and girls’ washrooms, leaving educators vulnerable to the administration’s gender ideology.

The letter from the Ministry of Education last week said it expects schools and colleges to allow students to choose sports teams based on their stated ‘gender identity’ and give them access to washrooms. and the changing rooms of their choice. Additionally, the ministry said it would demand what educators can believe and teach about sex, warning against a scenario in which “the teacher tells the class there are only boys and girls and that anyone who thinks otherwise has something wrong with them ”.

Good for education

But the Fulton The decision offers some hope of protection for religious education, as the Supreme Court respected the right of Catholics to stand up for fundamental truths about human nature and sexuality.

“One of the most important victories of the Catholic Church in Fulton is that the Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of a religious entity that believes “marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman,” Kniffin says. “Some on the left have argued that such a statement amounts to racial bigotry. The unanimous decision of the Court is a strong repudiation of this analogy.

Instead, the Court has remained in accordance with its Oberefell decision in 2015, which said, “Many who judge same-sex marriage to be wrong come to this conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are here disparaged.

In his majority notice in Fulton, Chief Justice John Roberts took note of the Catholic Church’s long history of serving children as an extension of, not outside of, its religious practice. Catholic education is no different. This is a point that Kniffin made in the friend in short he wrote last year for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

“This story was important in the Fulton case, because the City and its allies have asserted that foster care has now become a “public service”, meaning that the contracts at issue here have no more religious significance than the contracts for “road maintenance.” Explains Kniffin. His brief for the USCCB noted that the Court had previously rejected this line of argument regarding Catholic education in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor ruling which affirmed the ministerial exception for certain teachers in Catholic schools. In this case, the Federal Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities made the scandalous argument that the First Amendment does not apply to Catholic schools providing “socially beneficial service … in accordance with state laws. on compulsory education ”.

As Hosanna-Tabor helped the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to defend its cause, the Fulton The move gives Catholic education an even stronger argument for religious freedom, Kniffin says. “While caring for orphans is bodily works of mercy, the work of Catholic schools is spiritual works of mercy. When conducted as the Catholic Church sees fit… Catholic schools perform a basic religious exercise. “

On the other hand, the Fulton decision is also a reminder of the fragility of these rights in today’s secular society. Although the Supreme Court had the opportunity in this case to overturn its 1990 decision in Employment services c. Smith, he avoided the problem, thereby allowing states and cities like Philadelphia to attempt further discrimination against Catholic organizations as long as their laws and rules are generally applicable without exceptions. Catholic Social Services may soon have to return to court to protect their foster care services and force a review of Black-smith – or this review could take place due to a case involving Catholic education, which faces challenges in licensing, funding school choices, accreditation, attending sports conferences and ‘other national and local attempts to impose a gender ideology despite Catholic beliefs.

“The good news is that five judges from Fulton says they believe the free exercise clause protects more religious freedom than the Black-smith decision might indicate, ”Kniffin says. “Hopefully this consensus will help deter the government from even greater efforts to force Catholic schools to abandon their beliefs about sexual morality and the human person. But if they do, the Court seems poised to protect the First Amendment right to free exercise. “

When it comes to federal programs like student loans and help with textbooks and public transportation, Catholic education is protected by the Title IX religious exemption – except that the Biden administration wants maneuver around this exemption with the nefarious equality law. Activists are also try at dismantle exemption from Title IX before the courts. To counter their arguments, the Cardinal Newman Society recently joined an amicus brief with the Christian Legal Society, several groups representing various religious beliefs, and Catholic schools and colleges recognized by the Newman Society for their faithful education.

By standing firm and refusing to surrender our religious freedom, Catholic educators can hopefully continue to win in court. In addition, the formation that Catholic education offers to young people – if it always remains faithful to the teachings of the Church – can ultimately renew society and restore respect for the truth.

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