In the face of constant attacks on our First Amendment rights, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) reversed the current and handed Americans back a core freedom stifled by a liberal activist government. Last Monday, in a 7-2 decision SCOTUS ruled that Missouri’s state policy prohibiting churches from receiving any state funds is religious discrimination.
In this case, Trinity Lutheran Church was denied a grant to update its preschool playground, even though the funds were for a secular purpose: the safety of children. Missouri justified its decision with a provision in its constitution prohibiting any public money from going to churches. Officials from Trinity Lutheran responded that such a law creates hostility towards churches and violates First Amendment rights.
Thankfully, Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as seven members of the Supreme Court, agreed that this action violated the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Heritage expert Elizabeth Slattery writes about why this is an important win for religious liberty:
In its ruling, the court recognized that churches do not have to give up their religious identity in order to compete with secular organizations for state funds…
Justice Neil Gorsuch concurred, explaining that the decision should not be read narrowly to apply only to cases involving playgrounds or children’s health and safety. Indeed, he concluded, “the general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise—whether on the playground or anywhere else.”
Emilie Kao, Director of the Devos Center for Religion and Civil Society at Heritage, had this to say about the far-reaching impact of this decision:
The significance of the court’s decision goes far beyond the playground at Trinity Lutheran.
When the government announces competitive programs to the public, including to improve public health, safety, and security, it must allow religious communities to compete on the basis of merit for those benefits.
It is an unconstitutional violation of religious freedom to pressure religious communities to renounce their beliefs by threatening to exclude them from competition.
We are thankful and encouraged by this religious liberty victory and we remain ever-vigilant in the protecting these sacred rights. If you’d like to follow the latest Supreme Court updates listen to Heritage’s new podcast SCOTUS 101, hosted by Heritage’s legal experts, Elizabeth Slattery and Tiffany Bates.
Do you believe your First Amendment rights are in danger today?