Supreme Court rules for Missouri church in playground case

The United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Missouri could not deny a church’s right to seek state funding for its playground and other non-religious needs, according to an Associated Press report.

The court voted 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia. The church was denied a grant in 2012 to put a soft surface on its playground due to its religious affiliation.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “[t]he consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”

Trinity Lutheran Church submitted an application to a Missouri scrap tire grant program and ranked fifth out of 44 applicants. However, the state’s Department of Natural Resources rejected the request on the grounds that Missouri’s constitution says “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote in the dissenting opinion that the court’s decision weakens American’s commitment to a separation of church and state.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said Monday it was “a great day for Missouri’s Trinity Lutheran Church” and “an even better day for religious freedom in America” in a statement issued following the ruling.

In April, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, announced a reversal of policies that prevented religious groups’ access to state grant programs.

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