What was Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer about?
Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri, operates a nonprofit preschool and daycare center called The Learning Center, which sought to increase the safety of its playground with a pour-in-place rubber surface. So, the church sought to participate in a program through the state of Missouri that gives grants to nonprofit organizations to reuse scrap tires for playgrounds. Out of the 44 organizations that applied for the playground surface grant, Trinity Lutheran’s Learning Center application was ranked 5th in meeting the qualifications. But they were denied solely because they are run by a church.
Organizations shouldn’t be denied a generally available public benefit just because they are religious. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom represented the church all the way to the Supreme Court.
What is Missouri’s Scrap Tire Grant Program?
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources runs the Scrap Tire Grant Program which recycles old tires for use on playground surfaces. The program reimburses non-profit organizations for purchasing these rubber playground surfaces in order to make the playgrounds safer for the children who play on it.
What is a generally available public benefit?
Public benefits—such as food-stamps, police and fire services, bridge and road repair, etc.—are benefits available to everyone. The state of Missouri’s decision to bar The Learning Center’s participation in the Scrap Tire Program is like a city government setting up fire stations (a public benefit), and then telling fire crews not to help a church that’s in flames.
What was the decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer?
The 7-2 majority held that Missouri’s policy violated Trinity Lutheran’s rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. This win at the Supreme Court means that the government cannot discriminate against religious organizations and exclude them from receiving a generally available public benefit simply because they are religious.
When was the Trinity Lutheran case decided?
The Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church on June 26, 2017.
How did the justices vote in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer?
The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, Kagan, and Gorsuch. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch each wrote concurring opinions, and Justice Breyer filed a separate opinion concurring in judgment. Justice Sotomayor filed the dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsburg joined.