Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7-2 that it is unconstitutional for the state to treat churches and other religious organizations worse than everyone else simply because they are religious.
This is great news! And it sets an important precedent to protect religious freedom. The government should never treat people of faith like second-class citizens.
Yet, that’s how the State of Missouri treated Trinity Lutheran Church when it disqualified them from receiving a non-profit playground reimbursement grant. In order to provide a safer environment for the children who attend its preschool and play on its playground, Trinity Lutheran applied for the grant, which was open to all nonprofits. And they were an ideal candidate, having been ranked fifth by the State out of 44 applicants, based on the criteria.
The State awarded 14 grants that year, but Trinity Lutheran was not among them.
Why? Because Trinity Lutheran preschool is operated by a church.
Besides the fact that this was blatant religious discrimination, a majority of the children at the preschool are not members at Trinity Lutheran. On top of that, Trinity Lutheran leaves the playground open outside of school hours for children in the community to use.
Is their safety less important because they are playing on a “religious” playground? Of course not.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court recognized this in their ruling today.
Practically speaking, this decision means that the State of Missouri cannot exclude religious organizations and individuals from generally available public benefits simply because of their beliefs. If the government is permitted to do that, then what would keep it from denying public services like police and fire protection to churches or other religious nonprofits?
Neutrality toward religion does not require that the government treat people and organizations of faith worse than everyone else. It just means they must treat them equally.
Attacks against people of faith and religious organizations are increasing. Christian business owners are being told they must leave their faith at home. Pro-life healthcare professionals are being told to perform abortions or lose their jobs. And churches are being told they must keep quiet on matters of biblical sexuality and open their private facilities to members of the opposite sex.
Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, without fear of government punishment. That’s why we defended Trinity Lutheran all the way to the Supreme Court and why we will continue to defend people and organizations of faith whose rights are being taken away – all free of charge.
But we need your help. We ask that you will prayerfully consider giving a donation today to ensure that we can continue to provide our clients with free legal services.
Will you join with us to ensure that the government does not treat organizations and people of faith as second-class citizens?
This is the first in a series of blog posts that will outline how some key courtroom victories help protect freedom in five critical areas.
While hundreds of thousands of people streamed into casinos, Nevada churches were prohibited from holding worship services with more than 50 people—under threat of criminal and civil penalties.
The First Amendment protects our freedom to peacefully practice the religion we choose. But when COVID-19 hit the United States and lockdowns began, some government officials seemed to forget this.