A preschool in Missouri cannot be denied participation in a public benefit program because of its affiliation with a religious organization, the United States Supreme Court has ruled.
Trinity Lutheran Church, which runs a preschool and daycare center, was excluded from participating in the 2012 Missouri Scrap Tire Program run by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. This program offered reimbursement grants to organizations that wanted to upgrade their playground surfaces to be made from recycled tires to help ensure the safety of children.
The church applied for the grant, and though they were ranked fifth out of the 44 applicants based on need, they did not receive the grant because of their religious affiliation.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources “had a strict and express policy of denying grants to any applicant owned or controlled by a church, sect or other religious entity,” according to a syllabus released by the Supreme Court in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, Director, Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
However, in a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court majority decided that unequal treatment of religious people or organizations is “odious to our Constitution … and cannot stand.”
“This is one of the biggest religious liberty cases in decades,” said a statement from Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Trinity Lutheran Church.