One of the nation’s leading adoption and foster care agencies, Bethany Christian Services, changed its policy last week, allowing the faith-based organization to resume its work with the city of Philadelphia.
In March, the city stopped placing foster children with Bethany Christian Services of Greater Delaware Valley (BCS) as well as Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CSS) after learning the two organizations did not allow adoptions by same-sex couples.
“I think that two women or two men that happen to love each other or are married to each other who pass all the background checks and the financial circumstances and have a nice home should be able to welcome a foster child into their home,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told WHYY at the time.
He went on to say the city “cannot use taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or because of their same-sex marriage status.”
Several months later, BCS has bent to meet the city’s requirements.
Cynthia Figueroa, commissioner of the state’s Department of Human Services, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the Christian adoption and foster care agency agreed to comply with the city’s nondiscrimination ordinances and worked with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs to train staffers on “cultural competency for serving individuals and same-sex couples who are LGBTQ.”
“Our faith calls us to work with vulnerable children and families and therefore, it is important that Christians remain in this space,” a statement from BCS read. “To that end, while we will remain compliant with the law, we also remain committed to our Christian beliefs and core values.”
When The Christian Post asked if the religious organization will place foster children with same-sex couples, a Bethany spokesperson simply said the agency “will comply with the law.”
However, despite saying the organization will follow Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination laws, a statement from BCS said its staff will also “remain committed to our Christian beliefs and core values.”
“We hope that all community organizations can work together in partnership to be a part of the solution, offering services to vulnerable children and families,” the statement continued.
What about CSS?
In the meantime, CSS is embroiled in a legal battle with Philadelphia over the same issue. The Catholic agency has made clear it will not alter its faith-based policies to abide by the city’s regulations.
Kenneth Gavin, chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said in a bold statement that the Catholic Church “does not endorse same-sex unions based upon deeply held religious beliefs and principles,” and therefore, CSS will “not be able to consider foster care placement within the context of a same-sex union.”
Becket attorney Lori Windham, who is representing CSS in its lawsuit against the city, said Philadelphia officials are not only threatening to stop placing foster children with the Catholic agency, they have threatened to end their partnership with CSS altogether.
Ending the partnership would, according to Windham, force CSS to “begin the process of shutting down.”
Currently, Philadelphia has “at least 250 children who are currently in group home situations,” she said, noting CSS has 35 open homes available. However, because of those homes are associated with the Christian group, the city won’t place children with them.
Windham has described the city’s policy as “direct and discriminatory targeting.” She said Philadelphia’s laws are “not permitted under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”