SCOTUS: Religious Organizations Eligible for Public Funds Used for Secular Purposes

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Constitution prevented Missouri from blocking a Lutheran school’s application for a public grant to install old tires for its playground’s surface.

Missouri’s law prohibited religious entities from receiving state funds but, the Court ruled, that violated the free exercise clause in the First Amendment. It forced Trinity Lutheran Church to choose between exercising its religion and receiving public funds.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion that Missouri’s policy was discriminatory:

“The Department’s policy expressly discriminates against otherwise eligible recipients by disqualifying them from a public benefit solely because of their religious character. If the cases just described make one thing clear, it is that such a policy imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion that triggers the most exacting scrutiny.”

Only Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, according to USA Today. “Today’s decision discounts centuries of history and jeopardizes the government’s ability to remain secular,” Sotomayor wrote.

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