Justices appear sympathetic to Missouri church seeking playground improvements

The justices will hear a challenge from Trinity Lutheran Church in the midwestern city of of Columbia, Missouri.

"Well, discrimination on the basis of status of religion, there's no line-drawing problem there", Gorsuch said.

"It does seem this is a clear burden on a constitutional right", Justice Elena Kagan told Missouri's attorney, James R. Layton, adding that "you're depriving one set of actors from being able to compete in the same way everyone else can compete due to their religious identification".

The court must decide whether Missouri is entitled to reject a church grant to use recycled tires to resurface a playground. Other properties of non-profits and secular institutions are eligible for the program. This program offers funds from the state to pay for educational tools.

The fundamental issue at hand is whether a state can exclude religious individuals or organizations from secular public benefit programs, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

"Almost 200 years ago, the people of the state of Missouri, adopting language that finds its origin in the founding fathers in Virginia and elsewhere, decided that we were not going to tax people in order to give money to churches", Layton stated at a news conference after the hearing.

The case, which tests the limits of religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution, is considered one of the most important to come before the court during its current term. Other states have similar amendments.

The dispute pits two provisions of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment against each other: the guarantee of the free exercise of religion and the Establishment Clause, which requires the separation of church and state. But there are questions over whether the nine justices will end up deciding the merits of the case after Missouri's Republican governor, Eric Greitens, last Thursday reversed the state policy that banned religious entities from applying for the funds.

In response to a question from Justice Stephen Breyer, Layton said the state could not deprive the church of police, fire and public health protection without violating the U.S. Constitution.

Mr Cortman faced resistance from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, all of whom asked about potentially religious uses of the playground and whether these justify denying Trinity Lutheran the grant.

More news: BP's Alaska Well Stops Leaking Oil, But Continues To Release Gas

"All we're talking about is a safer surface on the playground for when kids play", he said.

The church distinguishes its case from Locke v. Davey, arguing that the state funds in that instance were used to fund the religious training of clergy.

"Missouri's express discrimination against religion should be declared unconstitutional", the brief said.

The district court's ruling was based in part on a 2004 Supreme Court decision in Locke v. Davey, in which the state of Washington was permitted to deny scholarship funding to a student of "devotional theology".

Justice Sotomayor pressed Cortman to explain how the church's free exercise of religion was being unconstitutionally violated, as it would not close its doors just because it had not received a reimbursement for the playground surface.

Former Missouri Solicitor General James Layton argued the case before the high court for Missouri. To his mind, the state is punishing a church exclusively because of its religious practice-which is forbidden by the Free Exercise Clause.

At question is Article 1, Section 7 of our state Constitution. "No one is asking the church to change its beliefs", she said.

"While this case may be about a church playground, the next case could easily involve a church that demands taxpayer money for a shelter but then refuses to allow same-sex couples to use its shelter", he said.

Gorsuch, the court's newest member, was subdued by comparison to his active involvement during his first two days of arguments. As Justice Kagan put it, the church-state divide is a "fraught issue" in which "states have their own very longstanding law" and "nobody is completely sure they have it right". The church wanted to improve the playground at its preschool and daycare center. Wednesday's argument date was finally set February 17, shortly afterGorsuch's nomination.

Gorsuch, who in seminal cases as an appeals judge has forced government to accommodate religious practice whenever reasonable, should answer no - and so should his colleagues.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
Recommended

Massive iceberg in Canada becomes tourist attraction
However, being the first of the season and arriving before schedule, the iceberg has caught the attention of shutterbugs. Greenland's ice sheets are accelerating their ice shedding which is resulting in more, and bigger, icebergs.

Didier Drogba: Ex-Chelsea striker joins Phoenix Rising as player and co-owner
The United Soccer League (USL) - the largest Division II professional league in the world and longest standing member of the U.S. Soccer Federation - today welcomes Didier Drogba as the newest member of Phoenix Rising FC.

Massive US bomb death toll rises to 94
According to him, the bombing was necessary because some of the tunnels were as deep as 40 meters and extremely hard to penetrate. The massive bomb terrified villagers 20 miles away across the border in Pakistan with a blast they described as earsplitting.

Japan, US must pursue mutual benefits through economic dialogue
In Wisconsin on Tuesday, Trump said that how much North Korea's leader desires peace will be a deciding factor in easing tensions. Ross will not accompany Pence on the other stops on his Asian swing, which include USA free trade agreement partner South Korea.

'Shattered' Picks Through The Broken Pieces Of Hillary Clinton's Dream
Clinton eventually did apologize to the public in August 2015, six months after the server issue was first brought to light. The book, out Tuesday, explores Clinton's 2016 campaign and the excruciating play-by-play of her election night.

Trump stops short of labeling China, Germany currency manipulators
It also noted Korea's track record of "asymmetric foreign exchange interventions". China only meets the criterion of having a major trade surplus.

Google Russia agrees to pay $8mn antitrust fine
The addition of a choice window provides users with the opportunity to choose their default search engine. The deal also includes a fine of 439m rouble (£6.2m) for Google, first handed down in late 2016.

Talk-radio host Alex Jones argues persona in custody dispute
She says his outbursts on his Infowars website , his radio show, and his YouTube channel are evidence that he's not a fit parent. Another of her attorneys, Robert Hoffman, said she "is a wonderful mother who has had her kids turned against her".

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Returning To Greensboro In 2020
The NCAA said it selected 613 host sites for preliminary rounds and finals of predetermined championships for the 2017-22 cycle. The Dr Pepper ACC Championship Football Game has been a sellout in three of the six years it has been played in Charlotte.

Meghan Markle will be Prince Harry's date at Pippa Middleton's wedding
Instead of attending Easter services with the rest of his clan, he flew out to Toronto to spend the holiday with his lady love. Pippa and Tom's wedding will, hands down, be Harry and Meghan's most high-profile outing together thus far.

New Nokia 8 and Nokia 9 sketches pop up online
We are sure Nokia 6 users will have a nice surprise when they will see the new software update available on their smartphones. On the camera front, the smartphone flaunts a 16-megapixel with PDAF, 1.0um sensor, f/2.0 aperture, and dual-tone LED flash.

Celtics' Smart fined $25K for making obscene gesture
Chicago again used its big men to push the Celtics out of the paint and was quicker to the ball in a lot of 50-50 situations. But Lopez's most surprising contribution to the Bulls' success in the first two games of the playoffs has come on defense.

Hundreds of Palestinians jailed in Israel go on hunger strike
The hunger strike was led by Marwan Barghouti , a prominent figure in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. The Times author bio described Barghouti as "a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian".

Trump takes aim at H-1B visa program
One, introduced by Illinois Democratic Sen. "Simply reviewing the programme is too little, too late", Senator Dick Durbin said. The trip to Wisconsin marked Trump's first visit to Speaker Paul Ryan's home state and district since taking office.

Gallup Poll: Fewer Voters Think Trump Will Deliver On His Campaign Promises
Trump's supporters have expressed their unhappiness that the president has not moved forward on immigration, healthcare or taxes. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of Trump is nearly unchanged at 54 percent, compared to 56 percent in February.


More News

News
More News