Lawyer: Supreme Court should hear SF Catholics’ religious freedom case
October 27th, 2010
The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to clarify what a lawyer for two San Francisco Catholics says are conflicting opinions on government neutrality toward religion.
The case originated when Richard Sonnenshein and Valerie Meehan, and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, objected to a 2006 San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution condemning the Vatican for restricting Catholic Charities CYO from placing adoptive children with gay and lesbian couples.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in an 8-to-3 ruling Oct. 22 in San Francisco, denied the plaintiffs’ appeal of a lower-court ruling siding with the city. But Robert Muise, a lawyer with the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., representing the plaintiffs, said the ruling showed that the justices were divided on that part of the First Amendment, the Establishment Clause, that mandates religious neutrality.
He added that U.S. Supreme Court decisions in such matters are in “hopeless disarray” and said there can only be clarity if the high court agrees to hear the appeal of the San Francisco case.
In their resolution, the supervisors demanded that Cardinal William Levada, as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, withdraw his “discriminatory and defamatory directive” concerning adoptions that he had issued when he was Archbishop of San Francisco.
The plaintiffs had argued that the resolution was an attack on Catholicism, but only six of 11 appellate judges addressed the matter, splitting 3-to-3. The other five said there was no need to decide the issue. The majority ruling did not decide whether the resolution expressed state hostility toward Catholicism.
From October 29, 2010 issue of Catholic San Francisco.