In the News: In Church-State Playground Brawl, Justices Lean Toward The Church



By 04/19/2017

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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. As EdNext’s Marty West explained in an article earlier this week

Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley involves a Missouri church that was turned down by a state program that provides grants to nonprofits to resurface their playgrounds with rubber from recycled scrap tires. The state justified denying the benefits on language in its constitution stating that “no money shall be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.”

The question now facing the court is whether such provisions, if used to exclude organizations from aid programs based solely on the organization’s religious status, violate the federal Constitution’s guarantee of free religious exercise. If so, voucher opponents will find it harder to argue that the religion clauses of state constitutions are a barrier to the creation of school voucher program.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg wrote yesterday that “a clear majority of justices at the U.S. Supreme Court seemed troubled Wednesday by a Missouri grant program that bars state money from going to religious schools for playground improvement.”

David Savage wrote in the L.A. Times that “what was unclear from the argument was whether the justices would rule broadly in favor of church schools or focus narrowly on the playground because it had nothing to do with worshiping or teaching religion.”

For background on the case, read this or this.

— Education Next

 




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