Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Court says church school can't be barred from state funds for playground

Francis Olson | 28 June, 2017, 06:41

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USA bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, welcomed the Supreme Court's 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer as a "landmark victory for religious freedom".

Foundation Senior Counsel John Eidsmoe (photo) added: "Trinity Lutheran Church did not seek any special benefits from the State of Missouri".

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church.

Missouri's Department of Natural Resources, which administers the playground resurfacing program, ranked Trinity Lutheran's grant application fifth out of the 44 it received. The church scored high in the grant process, but Missouri's state constitution, like those in about three dozen states, forbade government from spending public money on "any church, sect, or denomination of religion".

Comer, the Supreme Court upheld the right of a religious school to benefit from a state-funded playground resurfacing program. The reason? The state claimed giving the church funds would violate the state constitutional provision against providing public funding for religious organizations. We have to wonder if Thomas and Gorsuch will ever get the complete victory for religion that their hearts desire. However, Attorney David Cortman with conservative Christian non-profit Alliance Defending Freedom says the ruling continues to leave open the question of what needs can qualify for the grant.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a Trump appointee and supporter of school choice, called the decision "a great day for the constitution that sends a clear message that religious discrimination in any form can not be tolerated in a society that values the First Amendment". But the court's ruling about the government grant for the church in Missouri seemed to upend some of the arguments against providing public funds to religious institutions.

Travelers to Leave Town in Record Numbers
With July 4 falling on a Tuesday, some workers will get a four-day weekend, making a quick road trip even more inviting. It's the busiest travel holiday in summer because school's out and families can plan longer vacations around it.

A private, religious school in the metro area is looking forward to the effects of a Supreme Court decision on religious liberty. We asked for equal treatment for people of faith.

"T$3 he exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, exclusively because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution..., and can not stand", the Supreme Court wrote in its opinion.

A church playground in Missouri won a closely watchedcase that it fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joined in all except footnote 3 of the opinion, which states that, although the case addresses "express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing", it does "not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination". Although the decision is narrowly focused, the U.S. Supreme Court appears to have taken a disturbing step back from this commitment today. Future cases will decide whether the case has not gone far enough to protect religious freedom or has gone so far to erode the wall of separation between church and state that it will come tumbling down to the detriment of both.

But for those who hoped the Court's ruling would dismantle a significant barrier to expanding voucher programs nationally, Monday's decision was ambiguous. Religious liberty wins are great and important.

"We don't want a state empowered to referee between theologies and to privilege some religious ideologies over others, even if that ideology is secularism", Moore said in a written commentary.

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