Justice Stephen Breyer authored a concurring opinion, while Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.
The court’s ruling came in the case of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., which operates a preschool and day care learning center as part of its church ministry. “The Court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment”.
In a decision released Monday morning in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, the highest court in the nation concluded that Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia should not be barred from a state program meant to help fix their daycare playground, reversing a lower court decision.
Children play on the playground at the Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Mo. The grant program is funded exclusively by a fee collected on the sale of new tires. The state awarded grants to 14 applicants. Blocking the church from a widely available public program, he said, “imposes special burdens on non-profit organizations with a religious identity” and amounted to hostility toward religion.
Layton said that while the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion, “It does not guarantee churches opportunities for public financing”. “It’s funding the playground where students play”. Some claimed that state bans like Missouri’s were rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry and modeled after an effort by Rep. James G. Blaine, who unsuccessfully proposed a federal constitutional amendment in 1875 to ban government aid to churches. The state rejected their application, citing a strict policy against funding programmes controlled by a religious entity. He blamed “government bureaucrats” and said he would defend “people of faith who are too often under attack”. The grants buy recycled tires to resurface playgrounds.
The Missouri Constitution’s ban on aid to religious schools is similar to provisions in another 36 states.
Attorney David A. Cortman addresses the Supreme Court justices in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Missouri Dept. on Natural Resources on April 19, 2017.
Without getting into the weeds, the footnote does not represent the official opinion of the Court.
“If Trinity Lutheran wins, state and local governments will be required to give taxpayer funds to churches, synagogues and mosques”, stated Americans United before the decision was released.
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