News Worms
News Worms

A Win for Religious Liberty - SCOTUS and Trinity Lutheran

A Win for Religious Liberty - SCOTUS and Trinity Lutheran

On Monday, the court ruled 7-2 that the state of Missouri should not have denied Trinity Lutheran Church a grant to build a children's playground because of the church's status as a religious institution, since it met the criteria for the state program.

Writing on behalf of the majority in a 7-2 decision, Chief Justice Roberts concluded, "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".

When the state denied Trinity Lutheran's application, the conservative, Arizona-based legal group the Alliance Defending Freedom represented the church in a legal challenge.

Gov. Eric Greitens, who in April reversed a Missouri policy that had banned religious organizations from receiving certain state grants, said in a statement that: "People of faith won an important victory today".

"Today's decision demands a more fair and inclusive approach to government programs meant to serve all people". Its lawyers argued that the state's action constituted religious discrimination in violation of the federal Constitution's Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses. And why did some justices disagree over a small footnote in the final ruling?

The closely watched case pitted two Constitutional provisions against each other: freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state.

The parties in the Trinity Lutheran case could try to reach a conclusion on the reimbursement issue based on today's opinion.

Churches that claim they are being discriminated against when applying for public funding may find themselves subject to anti-discrimination laws in the use of that funding.

On the other side, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources deployed the establishment clause of the First Amendment ("no law respecting the establishment of religion") to defend its decision not to provide aid directly to a church, even if used for a secular objective.

"I'm glad this ruling insists that no American - whether religious or not - should be disadvantaged simply because of what they believe", Moore said.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) was among the groups opposing the ruling.

In 2012, the state launched an initiative to encourage schools to use recycled tires to produce softer playground surfaces. But why should someone be barred from accessing otherwise generally available funding only because the profession he wished to follow was religious?

"So it didn't address a facility that would be used by the church for worship purposes or for expressly religious purposes", he said.

"The 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".

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court's opinion, but - in what could be the more significant aspect of the ruling - disagreements over aspects of Monday's decision suggested that, while the outcome here was clear for most of the justices, the court is in flux on its views about the role of religion in America. "By treating a state ban on aid to churches as a mark of discrimination, the court's decision upends precedent and adds confusion to the law", said Holly Holman, BJC general counsel. And it's quite unlike taxpayer funding of religious instruction or the parade of horribles raised by Trinity Lutheran's opponents (which no longer include the State of Missouri, whose new administration changed its policy).

The opinion notes that Roberts wrote the majority's decision, aside from one particular footnote. It also could buttress the case for using publicly funded vouchers to send children to religious schools rather than public schools.

Perhaps the biggest case the Court will be taking up is President Donald Trump's travel ban - a revised version of the "Muslim ban" he advocated for on the campaign trail.

DeVos said in a statement after the Supreme Court announced its decision that it was 'a great day for the Constitution and sends a clear message that religious discrimination in any form can not be tolerated in a society that values the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court's decision in the Trinity Lutheran case "marks a great day for the Constitution and sends a clear message that religious discrimination in any form can not be tolerated in a society that values the First Amendment, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime proponent of voucher programs, said in a statement".


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