The City of Philadelphia resumed foster-care and adoption work Thursday with Bethany Christian Services, whose contract had been suspended because of its policy that prevented staff from working with same-sex couples.
Department of Human Services Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa said Bethany Christian Services of Greater Delaware Valley had changed its policy to conform with the city’s antidiscrimination laws and partnered with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs to train staff 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,” Bethany said in a statement. “To that end, while we will remain compliant with the law, we also remain committed to our Christian beliefs and core values.”
The announcement comes as a federal judge prepares to rule whether the city violated Catholic Social Services’ religious freedom by suspending its contract for the same reason.
The city has said it was unaware of the discriminatory policies until a same-sex couple told the Inquirer and Daily News they were turned away from Bethany last year. Of Philadelphia’s 28 foster-care agencies, only Bethany and Catholic Social Services had policies against working with same-sex couples. The city suspended both contracts.
CSS sued in May and attorneys argued in court last week that the city violated the organization’s First Amendment rights. Attorneys for CSS told U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker there are homes that sit empty, which could be harming children who need them. CSS requested an immediate restraining order to resume its work.
Attorneys for CSS argued in court that requiring a change in its policy would violate its religious beliefs. Foster-care agencies must certify homes of prospective families.
“A home study is essentially a validation of the relationships in that home,” James Amato, of CSS, testified last week. “And in this case that relationship is not one that is acceptable in terms of church teaching. … Catholic teaching indicates children are best raised in a home with a husband and wife.”