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Major Free Exercise Case Before Supreme Court Tomorrow

Major Free Exercise Case Before Supreme Court Tomorrow

The Massachusetts' version, for example, states that "no grant, appropriation or use of public money shall be made or authorized for the goal of founding, maintaining or aiding any church, . religious denomination or society" As a result these provisions have been applied to matters from playground surfaces in the Missouri case to a pending case before the highest Court in Massachusetts involving the town of Acton giving a grant of public funds to refurbish stain glass windows and for other repairs to a Congressional Church. This helps the state reduce the number of tires in its landfills and make playgrounds safer for kids.

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. Though its application met all the neutral criteria and was rated highly, Missouri denied that application exclusively because it came from a church.

The church has drawn support from the religious community including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Mormon Church and Jewish groups.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday in a Missouri case with the potential to open grant programs to parochial schools.

At the argument, lawyers for both sides faced a very active bench. Gorsuch used the kind of language that welcomes expansive claims of the free exercise of religion-which is the kind of claim raised by the plaintiffs in the Trinity Lutheran case. Since it will be part of the Attorney General Office's job to defend this new policy, former Missouri Solicitor General Jim Layton will be representing the DNR instead.

Citing discrimination, the church sued the state, and although it lost in the lower courts, it is now looking for a SCOTUS ruling that would ensure that schools run by churches can not be excluded from government programs providing assistance to non-profit organizations.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor sounded most skeptical of the church's position. She mentioned that Blaine Amendments-which she called an "admirable tradition" in our nation-prohibit public funds from going to churches. Blaine's proposal to amend the U.S Constitution in 1876.in a way to block all such public funding was defeated by the Senate.

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"This isn't a permanent change, by any means", Cortman said. Justice Gorsuch will be poised to consider this issue, and we're glad he has a strong record of protecting religious liberty. And it observes that there is no guarantee that the church could actually receive the funds it seeks in the future, because of the strong prospect that someone will challenge the new policy. Under this test, the State must prove more than the existence of a rational basis for denying Trinity's application: it must prove that it acted to further a compelling state interest and that the denial was created to further that interest. The church's brief to the high court stated, "A rubber playground surface accomplishes the state's purposes whether it cushions the fall of the pious or the profane". In 2012, it applied for Missouri's scrap tire grant reimbursement program.

Justice Breyer asked about crossing guards, since they aren't placed everywhere, and Layton simply said this case is different because it involves physical improvement to the church's property.

Alito asked Missouri's lawyer, James Layton, if religious entities would be barred from applying if Missouri had a similar program.

Furthermore, any money the government gives to support a program run by a religious group frees up funds which can then be used elsewhere. "This case is about whether the state has to pay for the property improvements of a church, despite almost 200 years of precedent and many practical considerations that argue otherwise". Such religious discrimination has no place in a diverse, tolerant society.

Eric Greitens has ordered the state to stop barring religious institutes from receiving state resources. He is known to have accepted a broader view of all religious rights during his time as a court judge in the Colorado federal appeals court.

Leaving aside the odd implication that two-year-olds are divisible into the categories "pious" and "profane", the state's brief replies that "declining to subsidise" a church does not violate its rights. On April 13th, Missouri's governor announced on Facebook that his state's policy excluding churches from the grant programme is "just wrong".


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