Justices rule for Missouri church in playground case

Children play on the playground at the Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia Mo

Children play on the playground at the Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia Mo. Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

During oral arguments in April, justices focused on health and safety being the objective of the state program Trinity Lutheran applied to be part of - one that wasn't likely to advance any particular set of religious beliefs. The court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding for the first time that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church, ' Sotomayor wrote.

The effect of money flowing into churches is not limited to the financial benefit of the churches, but also for the state regulations to flow into churches.

The 7-2 decision could have far-reaching implications: almost 40 states ban public funds going to religious institutions.

The specific church involved in the case, Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri, wanted to participated in a state program that reimburses the cost of rubberizing playground surfaces.

In the midst of widespread protests at airports and reports of refugees, immigrants, and green-card holdersbarred from flights to the USA, orders were challenged by some state judges within hours and in two different federal courts the following week.

But Missouri had claimed that its constitutional provision did nothing to interfere with a church's religious activities. For instance, could churches be considered ineligible for funding after natural disasters?

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the DNR's policy is unconstitutional.

The Alliance for Defending Freedom is an advocacy group dedicated to fighting and winning cases for religious liberty, among many things. "Whenever religious people, organizations, see themselves being discriminated against, this case will be the controlling precedent", he added.

A divided federal appeals court had upheld the exclusion of Trinity, pointing to a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that said states that offer college scholarships can deny them to students majoring in theology.

"With the recent addition of Justice Gorsuch, we are much more optimistic about the future of religious freedom in America". He expects it will be easier for funds to go to religious institutions.

"All we're talking about is a safer surface on the playground for when kids plays", David Cortman, the church's lawyer, told the court.

Some of the Blaine Amendments are written in a way that could still prevent funds from going to religious institutions, said Daniel Hemel, a professor at University of Chicago Law School.

But public schools have to get the public money FIRST. Certainly the Framers never meant to exclude churches from public life in the way the state of Missouri and lower courts have here. Because only four justices joined that footnote, it is technically not considered the opinion of the court. Does the decision limit the application of the ruling by focusing on "playground resurfacing" in this footnote?

"So it didn't address a facility that would be used by the church for worship purposes or for expressly religious purposes", he said. Haynes of the Newseum believes the decision opens the door to funding.

In Idaho, the Blaine Amendment is well-entrenched and politically popular.

The justices on Monday ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri. But the court made clear that "any existing government program that excludes religious programs based only on their religious status will not be allowed", he said.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, a legal adviser with the Catholic Association, said in a statement that such a blow against state Blaine amendments was long overdue. Public benefits come in many shapes and sizes. "But, as the Department itself acknowledges, the Free Exercise Clause protects against 'indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion, not just outright prohibitions.'" And a church being denied participation in public benefits because of its religious character can be such an "indirect coercion" on the free exercise of religion, he continued. The sate cited a clause in Missouri's state constitution that bars the use of state funds "directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion." . Five of those seven justices clarified that the decision applies only to playground resurfacing. It was determined that the ban would be suspended while judges decide on its constitutionality.

The case, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, No. 15-577, took some twists and turns at the Supreme Court. She continued, stating that the decision.

This case involves the multifaceted First Amendment with its Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

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