A blow-by-blow account of the Trinity Lutheran arguments

512px-USSupremeCourtWestFacadeThe London Economist, of all sources, has published a description of the arguments in the Supreme Court in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Pauley (and the State of Missouri).

The report said that the argument seemed to go in the church’s favor, with even liberal justices expressing skepticism about the state of Missouri’s reasoning in refusing to allow the church to participate in a grant for shredded tires to use for  playground padding for its preschool.

The justices asked the state’s attorney if providing a church police and fire protection would also violate its church-state separation law.  The attorney reportedly couldn’t come up with a good answer.

The new guy on the court, Justice Gorsuch, also seemed sympathetic to the LCMS institution.

Read the description of the arguments after the jump.

Photo of Supreme Court building by UpstateNYer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Criminalizing pro-lifers

brutality-152819_640In France, it is illegal to attempt to disuade anyone from getting an abortion.  It is also illegal to demonstrate against abortion, to give information about alternatives to abortion, and to espouse the belief that abortion is immoral.  Pro-life expressions could result in a fine of 30,000 euros and two years in jail.

So says Denise Burke, who makes the point that those who once claimed to be “pro-choice” are now “pro-coercion” in seeking to silence and criminalize advocates for life. [Read more…]

Gorsuch’s first week will feature LCMS school

Rubber_mulch_playgroundJustice Neil Gorsuch is now on the Supreme Court, and one of the first cases he will hear in his first week involves a Lutheran preschool:  Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley.

At issue is whether Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, can take part in a state program that gives shredded tires to schools in order to cushion their school’s playgrounds.

The Missouri Constitution says that no state money whatsoever can go to a religious entity.  And those shredded tires represent money.

At issue, though, is the heritage of the anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment in the 19th century, which is an obstacle to school choice programs.

I am sympathetic to the church and school.  But do  they have a leg to stand on?  Doesn’t the Missouri constitution say what it says?  If Justice Gorsuch rules against the church, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he is weak on religious freedom, just that this case is pretty straightforward against the church’s position.  What line of argument would you make in support of the church’s case?

See George Will’s take on the case. [Read more…]

States can now stop funding Planned Parenthood

P1000741President Trump signed into law a measure passed by Congress that would allow states to deny certain government funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Under President Obama, Title X “family-planning grants” to states could not be denied to organizations on the basis of whether or not they performed abortions.  Thus, federal money went to Planned Parenthood not for abortions–the Hyde Amendment forbids that–but to support their other activities (as if money were not fungible).

Now states can prevent abortion providers from receiving any of the money if they so choose.

Question:  Why are taxpayers funding Title X “family-planning grants” in the first place?  Can states refuse to take them? [Read more…]

A church with its own police force

handcuffs-308897_640The Alabama state Senate has voted to allow a church in Birmingham to have its own police force.

Briarwood Presbyterian (PCA)  believes it needs its own police to provide security for its school and its 4000 members.

Universities are routinely authorized to have their own “campus cops,” but not other institutions, much less churches. The approval must still pass the state House of Representatives.

A church with a police force, according to the article after the jump, would be “unprecedented.”  But what are the theological problems with this? [Read more…]

Our superlegislature

Supreme_Court_of_the_United_StatesNeil Gorsuch was sworn in, informally, and has joined the Supreme Court.  A more ceremonial swearing in will take place later.  But he is already on the job, in time to hear some important cases.

In a column on the “nuclear option,” Charles Krauthammer observes that the Supreme Court has been turned into a “superlegislature.”  Liberals especially are looking to the court to achieve their political ends.

Liberal judicial theory says that the courts should honor “evolving social norms.”  But surely, Krauthammer says, elected representatives are in a better position to reflect evolving social norms.  Constitutionally, the judicial branch should instead be keeping all of these evolving social norms within the parameters of the Constitution. [Read more…]