Trinity Lutheran v. Comer finds that governments can’t discriminate against churches that would otherwise qualify for funding just because they’re religious institutions.
The Supreme Court has ruled 7-2 against the state of Missouri, stating it violated the U.S. Constitution by excluding The Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center from a grant program providing playground resurfacing materials.
“In 2012, the Center sought to replace a large portion of the playground pea gravel with a pour-in-place rubber surface by participating in Missouri’s Scrap Tire Program. The program, run by the State’s Department of Natural Resources, offers reimbursement grants to qualifying nonprofit organizations that install playground surfaces made from recycled tires. The Department had a strict and express policy of denying grants to any applicant owned or controlled by a church, sect, or other religious entity. Pursuant to that policy, the Department denied the Center’s application. In a letter rejecting that application, the Department explained that under Article I, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution, the Department could not provide financial assistance directly to a church.”
Today’s ruling states “The Department’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status.”
Missouri has “Blaine amendments” as many states do, so this decision could open the door to additional challenges on everything from state constitutions to school-voucher policies which have rested on the application of the Blaine Amendment provisions.
Read the full ruling HERE