4 Things You Should Know about the Supreme Court Religious Liberty Case

4 Things You Should Know about the Supreme Court Religious Liberty Case
Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the remaining religious freedom case to be heard this term—and one of the most significant religious liberty cases to be decided in years. This will be newly-confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch's first major case, and he may very well give the deciding vote. Thus far, the Court has seemed to side with the church. Here is what you should know about this case.

Photo courtesy: Religion News Service

1. What's the case about?

The case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer,  involves a religious preschool that was rejected from a state program that provides reimbursement grants to purchase rubberized surface material (tire scraps) for children’s playgrounds. The preschool was ultimately denied the grant for its playground solely because the playground belongs to a religious organization. The church is being defended in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri applied for Missouri’s Scrap Tire Grant Program so that it could provide a safer playground for children who attend its daycare and for neighborhood children who use the playground after hours. The

Scrap Tire Grant Program is otherwise neutrally available to a variety of nonprofits and Trinity’s application was ranked fifth out of 44 applications (in total, 14 grants were awarded).

Although the grant was for a secular use (i.e., making a playground safer), the state of Missouri halted the application process and denied Trinity’s attempt to participate in the program solely because Trinity is a church. The state based this exclusion from theprogram on Article I, § 7, of the Missouri Constitution, which states, “no money shall be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.”

The Eighth Circuit affirmed that denial by equating a grant to resurface Trinity’s playground using scrap tire material with funding the devotional training of clergy.

 

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/ehrlif