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Jeffrey Toobin: SCOTUS Decides Christians ‘Don’t Have To Follow The Laws That Everyone Else Has To’

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BOSTON, MA - MAY 30: Former United States Attorney General Eric Holder is interviewed by Jeffrey Toobin for a discussion on gerrymandering and its impact on the American politcal system at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on May 30, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Holder is a partner at Covington and serves as the Chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Paul Marotta/Getty Images

A Supreme Court decision preventing the government from discriminating against religious institutions that place children in foster care has been twisted by media analysts into proof that Catholics “don’t have to follow the laws that everyone else has to follow.”

CNN’s Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin also falsely claimed that the ruling means that LGBT people “are not able to become foster parents in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania.”

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the city of Philadelphia wrongly excluded Catholic Social Services from a city contract to provide foster care because the organization will not place children with same-sex couples due to religious convictions.

Catholic Social Services, which began serving Philadelphia’s orphans in 1797, has administered foster care for the city for more than 50 years. But in 2018, city officials moved to cut ties with the organization after discovering that its Catholic faith teaches that children should be raised in a home with a married mother and father.

No same-sex couple ever applied to become a foster parent through the Catholic agency, which would have referred the couple to one of the city’s 29 other foster care agencies that have no such religious concerns.

Although Chief Justice John Roberts ruled in Fulton v. Philadelphia that the city violated the terms of its own contract by denying a religious exemption, the legacy media presented the ruling as proof that Catholics had placed themselves above the law.

“This is allowing a Catholic foster agency to discriminate against same-sex couples who want to foster through them specifically,” said CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider on “CNN Newsroom.”

Jeffrey Toobin claimed that the ruling rewarded “a big legal cause of conservatives in America, which is telling religious institutions and religious people that they don’t have to follow the laws that everyone else has to follow.”

When others on the panel pointed out that the ruling narrowly focuses on the contract’s terms, Toobin presented the issue as one of Christian, and especially Catholic, organizations quashing the rights of LGBT people.

“You can write these things as narrowly as you want, but the message that is sent by cases like this and by the result in this case, regardless of what the words the Chief Justice used are, is that religious organizations — and it’s almost always Christians and it’s usually Catholic organizations — do not have to follow the laws that everybody else has to follow. They can excuse themselves when they have religious objections,” said Toobin, whose personal behavior has not always conformed to Catholic doctrine.

“That is a message that is being sent loud and clear,” he continued, “whether it’s holding religious services during COVID, whether it is fulfilling the requirements to pay for contraception for employees, whether it is baking a cake for a same-sex wedding, is that you can get out of obligations that are imposed on everyone else if you have a religious objection.”

“It is a controversial notion,” asserted Toobin.

He added that, thanks to the court ruling, “gay people … are not able to become foster parents in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania.”

CNN host Poppy Harlow corrected him, saying that the decision “relates to this Catholic foster service” and “not more broadly.”

“Yes, I’m glad you pointed that out,” said Toobin, who then equated the LGBT situation with Jim Crow. “But many foster care agencies are affiliated with churches, and so if they have a religious objection to same-sex couples, they can say, ‘No gay people need apply.’”

MSNBC offered a similarly negative interpretation of the ruling. NBC News correspondent Peter Williams said the “decision is quite narrow” because “the Supreme Court was really trying not to let the decision stand for a wider acceptance of the idea that you can discriminate based on religious freedom.”

The Hill also incorrectly reported, “Supreme Court sides with Catholic adoption agency that turned away same-sex couples.” As noted, not a single same-sex individual ever applied to become a foster parent via Catholic Social Services.

Religious liberty advocates celebrated the unanimous decision, although it did not tackle the underlying First Amendment issue of religious believers’ ability to live according to the teachings of their faith.

“Despite the pitiful dearth of foster-care agencies in the United States, the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia excluded a faith-based charity from helping to meet the growing need,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “Increasingly, the Left refuses to tolerate the slightest deviation from their political orthodoxy regardless of who suffers as a result.”

Kelly Shackelford, president of the First Amendment legal watchdog the First Liberty Institute, said the court’s decision “ensured that religious adoption providers can continue their centuries-old work serving families and children without suffering government discrimination, because they believe that the best home for a child includes a mother and father.”

“This is a tremendous victory for religious liberty,” he said.

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