George Will: A case for preventing kids' scraped knees

Their letters to the high court came despite Gov. Eric Greitens reversing a rule last week that prevented religious organizations from receiving grant money from the Department of Natural Resources. On April 13th, Missouri's governor announced on Facebook that his state's policy excluding churches from the grant programme is "just wrong".

In a separate post, Howe explains an unexpected twist in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer.

In response to a question about Gorsuch from the Heritage Foundation's Elizabeth Slattery, who moderated the panel, Smith praised Gorsuch's "very solid record" on religious liberty issues and said she believed he would be "quite favorably disposed" toward the challenge to Missouri's rules. "Last week, Missouri's governor abandoned this principle by deciding to subsidize houses of worship". Cortman and the alliance are providing the legal support for Trinity Lutheran. "With nothing more at stake, the case should end now".

But Religious Right groups, who were thrilled that Donald Trump chose Neil Gorsuch from a list hand-picked by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society, have hopes that now-Justice Gorsuch will push a constitutional interpretation that would in essence require state support of churches and other houses of worship. For that reason, this case provides a good vehicle for the Court to issue a fairly narrow ruling that would allow states to provide aid to religious institutions if the aid has nothing to do with promoting religious beliefs or practices. The Christian church in Columbia, Mo., sued after being denied state funds to improve the surface of a playground used by its preschool.

Missouri is one of 38 states that have Blaine Amendments, many of them added to state constitutions as large groups of Catholics immigrated to the the late 1800s.

Taxpayer funding of religion also is a recipe for discrimination. The provisions also protect faith communities from governmental discrimination and interference.

The Institute for Justice has filed a court brief supporting Trinity Lutheran Church.

The quarrel is whether Missouri violated America's constitution when, in 2012, it excluded a day-care centre run by the Trinity Lutheran church from a programme providing new, rubberised playground surfaces for pre-schools. It's unclear how the Supreme Court will react to this 11th-hour maneuver, but Greitens' action should render the case moot.

But AU and the ACLU reject this argument: "Both may wish to proceed, yet both consider and declare the prior policy invalid".

A group that sided with the state's earlier position, Americans United For Separation of Church and State, said the court should now dismiss it. Hawley had been a private attorney for Trinity Lutheran Church before taking office in January, and hasn't had anything to do with the case since. A former Democratic solicitor general was tapped to argue the state's side.

The constitution of the state of Missouri does not allow any religious denomination, church or sect from receiving money obtained from tax paying citizens of the state. That's why AU joined our allies in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Missouri's constitution. Religious Right groups are hoping the Court will hear the case anyway in order to further pry open the constitutional door to direct funding for religious institutions and undermine constitutional provisions like Missouri's in other states.

  • Larry Hoffman