Statement by Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod
“… the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution… and cannot stand.” Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, No. 15-577, slip op. at 15 (U.S. June 26, 2017).
The U.S. Supreme Court got it right today in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer when it ruled that the state of Missouri could not deny Trinity Lutheran Church an “otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status.”
Alliance Defending Freedom represented Trinity Lutheran in this groundbreaking case.
In 2012, Trinity applied for a playground resurfacing grant from the state for its preschool playground, which was open to the community and frequently used by children in the neighborhood. Obtaining the grant would allow the church to receive partial reimbursement for resurfacing its playground with a safer pour-in-place rubber surface made from recycled tires.
The state awarded 14 grants that year, and although Trinity was ranked 5th out of 44 applications, the state denied the request. The state reasoned that the Missouri state constitution prohibited providing aid to churches.
Today’s ruling is a significant victory for religious freedom. As new Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch wrote in his concurring opinion, today’s ruling shows that “the general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise – whether on the playground or anywhere else.”
Governments now are on notice that exclusion of religious organizations secular aid programs is constitutionally impermissible.
The Court’s opinions may be found here.
Read more at adflegal.org here.