U.S. Supreme Court to hear case of Columbia church denied government aid
COLUMBIA – The Supreme Court next week will hear the case of a preschool that was denied a grant to re-surface its playground with tire scraps. The lawsuit includes the Trinity Lutheran Church and its preschool, Good Shepherd Lutheran School on Rollins Road.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel and Communications Director Kerri Kupec, 44 non-profits applied to the tire scrap program in Missouri. The state accepted 14 of those applications. Trinity Lutheran Church ranked fifth on the list but was later denied because the preschool was run by a church.
The case will be one of the first to be decided with input from Justice Neil Gorsuch, the recently sworn-in conservative appointed by President Donald Trump. At issue is religious freedom versus the separation of church and state.
The ACLU has filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to "robustly enforce" the Missouri Constitution, which grants "heightened protection to the separation of church and state."
But Kupec and other supporters of the church say it's rights are being violated.
“The bottom line again is that people of faith and religious organizations shouldn’t be treated like second class citizens,” Kupec said. “And they should be able to enjoy those same secular, generally available public benefits like everyone else.”
More than 90 percent of the children that attend the school don’t actually attend the church, Kupec said. She also said the school has an open gate policy, which means the school’s playground is open to members of the community during after hours and the weekend.
“The safety of every child matters regardless of whether they go to a public school or a religious school,” Kupec said.
The Supreme Court will hear the case next Wednesday.