After Oral Arguments, the Supreme Court Seems Poised to Strike a Blow to Church/State Separation

Earlier today, the Supreme Court heard the case of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, and as many activists feared, it looks like the Court will create a giant hole in the wall of separation between church and state.

This case was all about whether the state of Missouri could give a taxpayer-funded grant to a church to renovate its playground. The state said no because it was forbidden from supporting a church, while church leaders said they were being discriminated against for being religious. This was just a playground, the church said, not something directly promoting the Christian faith.

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During oral arguments today, the conservative justices’ questions suggested they found the grants discriminated against churches, and even Justice Elena Kagan seemed sympathetic to that line of reasoning:

this is a clear burden on a constitutional right… in other words, because people of a certain religious status are being prevented from competing in the same way everybody else is for a neutral benefit.

Of course, the “neutral benefit” of a safer playground meant there would be a religious benefit of having more money left over in the church coffers along with a more structurally sound church that would be more inviting to the public.

What’s uncertain right now is just how broad a ruling this would be. If the church wins, what will it mean with regards to government funding of religious institutions?

It’s scary to think that taxpayers could soon be funding the upkeep of churches across the country. But that may be the result here.

Another possibility, however, would be less earth-shattering:

Their concerns raised the possibility that the court would rule 7-2 in favor of the church, though perhaps on narrow grounds, so as not to set a broad, nationwide precedent on public funding for religious institutions.

That may be the best case scenario right now.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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