By Christopher Harper
The Socialist Republic of Philadelphia, where I live, has launched two attacks in recent months—one against a neighborhood to force a safe injection site there and the other against the Catholic Church to force it to place foster children with same-sex couples.
In a city where you have to pay an extra tax on soda pop because it can cause people to gain weight, hypodermic needles were going to be free. But that’s how the Democrats run Philly, a place where you could toss a hand grenade in virtually any direction without injuring a Republican.
The idea of the safe-injection sites is to get heroin, fentanyl, and other drug use off of public streets and into medically supervised facilities. The organizers, a nonprofit called Safehouse, argued that the site would reduce overdose deaths, prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, limit drug-related crime, and offer addicts a range of social, legal, and housing services.
In February, a federal judge cleared the way for a site, which would be the first in the country, with the support of Mayor Jim Kenney.
Most observers had expected the site to be located in Kensington, a North Philadelphia neighborhood that has long been a haven for drug users. The organization, however, decided to open up in South Philadelphia near Broad Street, one of the major thoroughfares in the city.
But neighborhood residents got the nonprofit and its supporters to back down—at least for the time being.
City Councilman Mark Squilla, who initially supported the site, accused Safehouse directors of choosing a facility location under “the cloak of darkness” without consulting the council or residents.
U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, who plans to appeal the court ruling, said: “We believe that Safehouse’s proposed activity threatens to institutionalize the scourge of illegal drug use—and all the problems that come with it—in Philadelphia neighborhoods.”
In another court battle, the City of Philadelphia wants to force a Catholic foster agency to place children with same-sex couples—a practice that violates church teachings.
The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, is the latest battle between the claims of same-sex couples and those who disagree on the grounds of religious beliefs. The case is broadly similar to that of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The court found in favor of the baker in that case.
The city stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.
Nevertheless, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the agency. The city was entitled to require compliance with its nondiscrimination policies, the court said.
The case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to hear arguments next fall.