Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for one of the biggest religious freedom cases to date, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. The case will be one of the first for newly minted Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s and may produce one of the most important decisions of this term.
In 2012, Missouri launched an initiative to encourage the use of recycled tires in an effort to make school playgrounds safer for children. When Trinity Lutheran Preschool requested a grant to participate in the program, however, they were denied. The state has defended its decision by citing the Missouri Constitution’s prohibition on state funds going to churches, but Trinity Lutheran’s lawyers argue that this violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, discriminating against a religious institution.
This morning, Concerned Women for America (CWA) hosted a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court to help draw attention to the case. Gold balloons reading “fairplay” served as the backdrop for a dozen children holding up signs advocating for the Court to vote in their favor.
CWA’s president Penny Nance led off the rally, highlighting the importance of the case and what the court’s decision will mean for religious liberty in the U.S. She pointed out the absurdity of the state’s denial of the grant to the church, citing the compelling statistic that 90 percent of the preschool’s students do not belong to the church, and stating that the playground is open to all children and to the public on the weekends. She also argued that the grant is a public good and that denying it to the church is exactly like denying other public services, such as police or fire protection.
Later, Trinity Lutheran Church’s preschool director spoke briefly, asserting, “We are not asking for special treatment. We are just asking to not be treated worse than everyone else.”
National Religious Broadcasters Association President Jerry Johnson also spoke at the rally. “People of faith are not second-class citizens,” Dr. Johnson stated. “There’s a bully on the playground, and it’s the state of Missouri.”
Additional speakers included representatives from The Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, Faith and Freedom Coalition, National Association of Evangelicals, and Freedom2Care.