The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case from an LCMS congregation. Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri, was denied a state grant to improve its school’s playground, in the name of the separation of church and state. This could prove to be an important case in drawing those lines. Watch for Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley.
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear another legal battle over the separation of church and state, and will determine whether Missouri improperly excluded a church playground from a state program that provided safer play surfaces.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia applied to be part of a state initiative that recycles tires so that it could replace the pea gravel in its day-care center’s playground with a bouncier surface. Although the church’s application ranked high in the state’s 2012 Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grant Program, it was ultimately turned down.A letter from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said including the church would violate a section of the Missouri constitution that says “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.”
A judge agreed with the state, and the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit split on the question.
The conservative Alliance for Defending Freedom brought the case to the Supreme Court and said constitutional protections against the establishment of religion could not be invoked to deny the church’s application for a playground surface.
“Trinity does not seek funding for an essentially religious endeavor where the state’s anti-establishment concerns may be heightened,” the church said in its petition to the court.