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Supreme Court rules state can't bar funds to church for public benefit

26 June 2017, 05:59 | Gladys Abbott

Supreme Court rules state can't bar funds to church for public benefit

The Supreme Court has ruled that churches have the same right as other charitable groups to seek state money for new playground surfaces and other non-religious needs

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court reduced the wall of separation between church and state Monday in one of the most important rulings on religious rights in decades. Roberts said that's true even though the consequences are only "a few extra scraped knees". "Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch joined the opinion in full, except for a footnote that reads", This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing.

"The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion".

"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.

"The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, exclusively because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and can not stand", wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts, reversing the lower courts ruling. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, in an opinion joined by Sonia Sotomayor.

In the rejection notice, the Learning Center was told their grant request was rejected because Article I, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution bars the "public treasury" from funding "aid of any church, section or denomination of religion".

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Trinity Lutheran, which runs a preschool and daycare center, wanted a safer surface for its playground.

But Missouri had claimed that its constitutional provision did nothing to interfere with a church's religious activities. It applied despite written regulations that barred state grants to religious institutions. In its policies against religious favouritism, the court found, the state came dangerously close to preventing the free exercise of religion.

Attorney David A. Cortman addresses the Supreme Court justices in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Missouri Dept. on Natural Resources on April 19, 2017. The Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution, in its own words, forbids only government action that prohibits the free exercise of religion; it does not require the government to subsidize churches or provide equal funding opportunities to religious and non-religious groups alike.

A group representing Christian schools said a victory for Missouri could jeopardize government-funded loans to students who attend religiously affiliated colleges, including Brigham Young University, Georgetown, and Yeshiva University.

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