NRB last week co-filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in an important First Amendment case likely to come before the Supreme Court this autumn. In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, a Missouri church that operates a pre-school is challenging the state of Missouri for denying it a playground re-surfacing grant solely because it is a church. NRB joined the Christian Legal Society, Family Research Council, and several other organizations in arguing to the high court that religious entities shouldn’t be penalized in a state program for their free exercise of religion when there is clearly no problem of any possible state establishment of religion.
NRB has repeatedly pushed back on government discrimination against people of faith. In this public safety context, NRB’s brief declares:
People attending a house of worship have no less an interest in their safety and health than do persons who utilize the many other facilities that have participated in the scrap tire program. The safety and health protections this Court has endorsed – police and fire protection, water and sewer connections – are typically extended to houses of worship as well, and to refuse them to a house of worship would plainly be unconstitutional. Churches and their congregants cannot be excluded from safety benefits merely because the benefits take the form of money grants. The court of appeals’ holding would wrongly permit discrimination against religious citizens in multiple situations.
Representing Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, is NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Noting that the state of Missouri admits that the church’s pre-school was fully qualified for the grant, ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman said, “A government isn’t being neutral toward religion when it treats religious organizations worse than everyone else.”
In addition to NRB, numerous lawmakers and other organizations have weighed in on behalf of this church. More information about this case, including links to NRB’s brief and the briefs of others, is available from ADF here.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: April 29, 2016