Supremes appear to swing on church playgrounds

Supremes appear to swing on church playgrounds

Supremes appear to swing on church playgrounds

Trinity Lutheran sued the state over the matter in the case titled Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer.

Liberal and conservative Supreme Court justices alike sounded sympathetic Wednesday to a Missouri church that says it was unfairly denied a state grant for playground improvements.

David Cortman, the church's lawyer, opened by telling the justices the school had been excluded from the state programme "solely because the pre-school is operated by a church rather than a secular not-for-profit".

Missouri's constitution, like those in at least 36 other states, bars sending tax money to churches and church schools.

James Layton, arguing for the state, said Missouri also would be against such programs because they similarly grant funds to religious institutions.

It's no wonder-the justices had a lot of time to think about this case, since they granted review in January 2016 and appeared to hold off in hearing the case until a ninth justice was confirmed.

This is true of Trinity Lutheran Church's preschool, which is considered officially as part of the church's "ministry", and therefore is a part of the religious goal and programming of the congregation. "We often just have fundraisers to provide for that", she says.

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NEIL GORSUCH sat silently through much of his first oral argument on April 19th in a constitutional case, a church-state battle over funding for pre-school playgrounds in Missouri.

What does this have to do with Colorado? "Homeschoolers, by law in most states, can not access public school playgrounds and campuses and many homeschoolers do not wish to".

"Because (the church) has received all the relief that it has requested - eligibility to compete for future grants from the Department of Natural Resources - there is no live controversy, and the case is moot", AU and the ACLU wrote to the court.

By effectively waiting until the court had its full roster, the justices avoided the possibility of a 4-4 tie, which would have upheld the lower appellate ruling that sided with Missouri.

"Cortman asserted the denial on the basis of religious status is a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent". After the justices heard oral arguments, Janae Stracke, with Concerned Women for America, read a statement on behalf of Republican lawmaker Trent Franks of Arizona.

"The issue here is that children are children, and their safety is important to us, and the children should not be treated as second-class citizens", Schuster said.

Layton fell back on the claim that since this involved a physical improvement to Trinity Lutheran's property, it's on the wrong side of the line and looks like state endorsement of religion.

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"Missouri's express discrimination against religion should be declared unconstitutional", the brief said. Trinity Lutheran, on its part, wants public funds so that it can replace the existing gravel present in the children's playground with rubber surface.

Trinity Lutheran's insistence that its playground resurfacing project is secular does not solve the problem, adds the state, because money is fungible, and because the church's religious intent is stated specifically in the Learning Center's mission.

"You sent me here to fight for all Missourians, and that includes fighting for and defending people of faith who are too often under attack", he said in a Facebook video ordering the Department of Natural Resources to lift its ban on state grants for religious organizations.

The Missouri church and some of the groups backing it have invoked what they describe as anti-Catholic bias that motivated the adoption of the Missouri provision and similar measures in other states in the late 1800s. The question before the court is whether it violates the Free Exercise Clause to bar churches from participating in the program.

He formally reversed the policy at the center of the case, which denied a church preschool access to a state safety program because of its religious affiliation.

Mr Cortman faced resistance from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, all of whom asked about potentially religious uses of the playground and whether these justify denying Trinity Lutheran the grant.

The case has been long anticipated as a showdown before the Supreme Court over the issue of religious freedom. According to the church, Missouri targeted religion for disadvantageous treatment, which can be justified only if the grant program is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.

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