Missouri Gov. Reverses Law That Sparked Trinity Lutheran Religious Freedom Case

The case will still be argued before the Supreme Court Wednesday.

In this photo taken Jan. 26, 2016, the empty playground at Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo.

By Liberty McArtor Published on April 18, 2017

The state of Missouri has now reversed the policy that sparked the lawsuit, but the Supreme Court will hear it anyway. On Wednesday the court will hear Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer. The closely-watched case will determine whether the state can fund religious institutions for non-religious programs.

The Background

The case began when Trinity Lutheran applied for a program that recycles scrap rubber tires into rubber surfaces for playgrounds. Missouri’s constitution forbids using state funds for “any church, sect, or denomination of religion.” The state denied the church’s request, even though the playground was used by neighborhood families.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sued on behalf of the church. The Christian legal group argued that an institution can’t be denied access to a secular benefit because it’s religious. A district court judge dismissed the suit. The case has now made its way to the high court. Oral arguments begin tomorrow.

Missouri Changes Its Mind

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced Thursday that he reversed the state’s policy:

We have hundreds of outstanding religious organizations … doing great work on behalf of kids and families every single day. We should be encouraging that work. So, today we are changing that prejudiced policy.

ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman said the reversal “doesn’t resolve the discriminatory actions.” He called the state’s previous action “a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent.” It also violated the church’s “freedom to participate equally in society.”

The governor agreed the reversal will not affect the SCOTUS case. But “it does ensure that future groups will not be discriminated against based on religion again,” he said.

The ACLU accused Greitens of a “dangerous” blurring of church and state. However, the decision was widely praised by Missouri religious leaders.

Mike Hoey of the Missouri Catholic Conference was one. “The education and safety of our children should be considered foremost in these grant programs, not the type of school the children attend.”

 

Keep checking with The Stream for updates on Wednesday’s SCOTUS arguments. For more on this case, go here.

The Stream‘s Rachel Alexander contributed to this report.

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  • Murray Stroupe

    Thanks; good news

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