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An emergency plea from families helping Philadelphia’s neediest children through a Catholic Social Services foster care program has been given a thumbs down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined Thursday to intervene in a lawsuit over the charity’s refusal to place children with same-sex couples.

Catholic Social Services had asked the court to order the city to resume placing children with its foster care program while litigation continued.

Three justices dissented — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — and the battle lines now are being drawn in a lower court.

“We hoped for a different decision today, but we are encouraged that three justices agreed that we had an ‘indisputably clear right to relief’ in order to help foster parents to continue serving children in need,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which is representing the parents.

“We look forward to pressing these parents’ case at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia next month.”

U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker earlier this year ruled that the city could order the Catholics to place foster children with same-sex foster parents in violation of their religious beliefs.

CSS argued in court that the city’s “vindictive conduct will lead to displaced children, empty homes, and the closure of a 100-year-old ministry.”

WND reported earlier this year the Catholics submitted a brief to the district court that claimed the city “made clear that Catholic’s religious beliefs would not be an acceptable basis for Catholic’s unwillingness to provide a written certification regarding a [same-sex] couple’s relationship and to approve that couple for foster care.”

“The city’s rhetoric further reveals that the goal of its actions is to force Catholic to change its beliefs such as the statements that it’s ‘not 100 years ago anymore’ and ‘times are changing’ and Catholic’s religious beliefs should change, too.”

Catholics charged the city’s policy is motivated by religious hostility.

WND reported the city cut off the foster homes in the CSS program even while it was making an urgent call for 300 new foster parents to provide loving homes for some of the more than 6,000 children in Philadelphia foster care.

“What justice is there in taking stable, loving homes away from children? If the city cuts off Catholic Social Services from foster care, foster moms like me won’t have the help and support they need to care for special-needs kids,” said a foster parent bring the lawsuit, Sharonell Fulton. “I have relied on Catholic Social Services for support for years, and the city is taking away this help and causing harm and heartache to countless families like mine.”

CSS says the dispute appears to be personal.

“The city has targeted Catholic Social Services because of its religious beliefs. City officials have been open about their disagreement with Catholic teaching on marriage and their personal animosity toward the archdiocese,” the complaint stated.

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