In a 7-2 decision June 26, the United States Supreme Court sided with a Missouri church that had been denied government money to resurface its playground. The court ruled that excluding churches from state programs for which other charitable groups are eligible is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion.
“The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.” He went on to state, “In this case, there is no dispute that Trinity Lutheran is put to the choice between being a church and receiving a government benefit… The rule is simple: No churches need apply.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. Sotomayor stated that the decision “weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.” She added, “If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship. The Court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment.”
Read the full text of the decision here.