Fulton v. City of Philadelphia
1. To succeed on their free exercise claim, must plaintiffs prove that the government would allow the same conduct by someone who held different religious views, or only provide sufficient evidence that a law is not neutral and generally applicable?
2. Should the Court revisit its decision in Employment Division v. Smith?
3. Does the government violate the First Amendment by conditioning a religious agency’s ability to participate in the foster care system on taking actions and making statements that directly contradict the agency’s religious beliefs?Advocates
- Lori H. Windham, for the petitioners
- Hashim M. Mooppan, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioners
- Neal Kumar Katyal, for respondents Philadelphia et al.
- Jeffrey L. Fisher, for respondents Support Center for Child Advocates and Philadelphia Family Pride
During oral argument in Fulton v. City of Pennsylvania, several questions were asked about a possible compromise between religious freedom and equality rights. Those questions were important because Fulton is just one in a line of cases addressing that tension. Others include Hobby Lobby, concerning a religious employer’s obligation to provide workers with health insurance coverage for female contraception, and Masterpiece Cakeshop, involving a religious wedding vendor’s refusal to serve same-sex couples despite civil rights laws. The dispute in Fulton is only the most recent to reach the Court, and it will not be the last.
At oral argument, Justices on both sides seemed to be seeking a compromise in the ongoing conflict. Justice Kavanaugh said “it seems like we and governments should be looking, where possible, for win-win answers,” and Justice Sotomayor asked “[i]f one wanted to find a compromise in this case, can you suggest one that wouldn’t do real damage to all the various lines of law that have been implicated here?”
We respond to these issues below.Fulton v. City of Philadelphia on Oyez: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/19-123