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

[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…]

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…]

The Lutheran pre-school before the Supreme Court

Once again, a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is appearing before the Supreme Court in a religious liberty case.  First there was Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church successfully arguing that it should be able to define who its ministers are, without being subject to discrimination complaints.  Now, as we blogged about. Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, is arguing that its preschool should have not been denied a state grant to make its playground safer just because it is a religious institution.

There is a good story about the background of the Trinity pre-school case in the Kansas City Star, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

“Conscientious objection against the state”

Hillsdale professor and LCMS member Korey Maas has an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal about the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod convention action to allow women facing combat and registering for the draft to claim conscientious objector status.  He goes into the legal implications of this decision, as well as the larger phenomenon of how the state has been picking fights with religious people and their institutions over issues of conscience.

He closes by quoting LCMS president Matthew Harrison, who said last year after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision that Christians will soon  “begin to learn what it means to be in a state of solemn conscientious objection against the state.”

Prof. Maas’s article is excerpted and linked to after the jump. [Read more…]

No exemptions for church services “open to the public”?

The Iowa Civl Rights Act forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  Churches have an exemption for “a bona fide religious purpose.”  But the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has ruled that if a church service “is open to the public,” it is a “public accommodation” that may not discriminate.

This would mean a congregation must allow only members to attend worship services, excluding visitors and non-members.

UPDATE:  The commission is now clarifying that it didn’t have in mind “worship services,” just services offered by the church, in the sense of child care, food pantries, etc.

[Read more…]