Religious Liberty at the US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court will open hearings to rule on originally anti-Catholic Blaine Amendements now affecting other churches as well

Washington DC, Apr.13.─ Can a church be cut out of a state funding program merely because it’s a church? That’s the question on Wednesday when the Supreme Court hears arguments that could determine whether state laws that discriminate against religious groups violate the First Amendment.

In 2012 Columbia, Missouri-based Trinity Lutheran Church applied to participate in the state’s Scrap Tire Grant Program, which gives money to schools or other groups that want to resurface playgrounds with recycled tires to provide a safer surface. The program is neutral and secular and provides around a dozen applicants with playground renovations each year.

The church wanted the new surface for the playground used by its preschool, but the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which runs the program, rejected the application. In a letter to Trinity Lutheran, the DNR explained that “‘Article I, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution specifically provides that ‘no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.’”

This language is known as the Blaine Amendment, one of many state laws passed amid a burst of anti-Catholic sentiment in the late 1800s to cut off public funds for religious schools. More recently, progressives have adopted Blaine Amendments to bar state money for religious organizations and block voucher programs that let parents choose religious schools for their children ...

[ Full text ]