Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Trinity Lutheran Religious Freedom Case
Oral arguments "could not have gone better" for Trinity Lutheran Church.
People gathered outside the Supreme Court Wednesday under balloons spelling “Fair Play” during arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer.
Arguments “could not have gone better,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom President Michael Farris. ADF is the legal group representing the church. Arguments ended mid-morning.
Trinity Lutheran is the first religious freedom case heard by Justice Neil Gorsuch, meaning a full nine-justice panel could issue a ruling. That ruling would determine the future relationship between government and people of faith.
In 2012 Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri applied for a state program that recycles scrap tires. The scraps make rubber surfaces for playgrounds. Since the church runs a pre-school, it needed the rubber surface for its playground. Most children who attend the school don’t attend the church. The school’s playground is also open for community use after hours and on weekends.
Still, Missouri denied the application. The state cited a law that funds could not help “any church, sect, or denomination of religion.”
ADF sued on behalf of the church. ADF attorney David Cortman said that Missouri violated its “freedom to participate equally in society.”
Is the Case Moot?
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.
What’s at Stake
A ruling against the church could set a dangerous precedent for people of faith, ADF’s Kerri Kupec suggested.
“We wouldn’t say to a yeshiva or mosque or a parochial school or a temple that they can’t call the fire department,” Kupec said, according to the Missourian. “This is the same kind of situation we’re looking at here. This is a public safety benefit program.”
Opponents worry that a win for the church could allow government to fund “discriminatory” organizations (i.e., those that oppose same-sex “marriage”).
But supporters argue that it’s discriminatory not to allow churches to benefit from government programs. Especially when it comes to an issue of children’s safety on playgrounds.
Farris seemed optimistic about the outcome. “Even some of the liberal justices seemed unwilling to follow Missouri’s request to discriminate.”
“We aren’t asking for special treatment,” the church’s school director said Wednesday. “We are just asking to not be treated worse than everyone else.”