NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson was among those who spoke at a rally Wednesday outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., as the high court heard oral arguments in a key religious freedom case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer.
In his remarks, Johnson noted how some national governments may squelch religious freedom by shutting down churches, shutting down Christian radio stations, and not allowing there to be Christian schools.
“But there’s a more subtle way, an insidious way, and that would be to discriminate, it would be to marginalize or penalize religious activity,” he said.
To illustrate, Johnson posed a few scenarios, including firefighters not putting out a fire at a church, police officers not stopping a burglar at a church, or road builders paving roadways only to secular businesses or secular homes, but not to Christian businesses or Christian homes.
“But you really don’t have to imagine this at all because we have a case here,” Johnson continued, pointing to the case of Trinity Lutheran Church’s Learning Center, which was denied a playground re-surfacing grant by the state of Missouri.
The state claimed that it had rejected Trinity Lutheran’s application to be part of a program using recycled tires to provide safer, rubberized surfaces for children’s playgrounds because including it in the program would conflict with a Missouri law barring government funding of religion.
“The government [is] taking taxpayer money, using taxpayer offices to administer a program, and saying, ‘We want to keep children safe on the playground.’ But, wait a minute, it’s really secular children on secular playgrounds at secular organizations ... not the Christian children at a Christian playground,” Johnson continued.
In calling for “fair play” – the theme of the rally organized by Concerned Women for America – Johnson said, “We stand together today with Trinity Lutheran for their First Amendment freedoms.
“Supreme Court, it’s your job to stop the bullies,” he continued, “and there is a bully on the playground. And that bully on the playground is the state of Missouri. Stop them. Make this right.”
“People of faith, religious people, are not second-class citizens, and we are not going to the back of the ‘bus,’” Johnson added.
“Do the right thing, do it now, Supreme Court,” he concluded.
Called the “remaining marquee case” for this Supreme Court term — and one of the first to be heard by newly installed Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch — the case of Trinity Lutheran was among key cases highlighted recently at the NRB International Christian Media Convention during a panel discussion hosted by NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing the church before the Supreme Court.
Last April, NRB joined several other organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to affirm religious liberty by ruling in favor of Trinity Lutheran.
A number of observers are optimistic about that the church’s chances for a favorable decision by the Court; however a ruling is not likely until June. Further analysis of this week’s case will appear in the next issue of Freedom Today.
By NRB Staff
Published: April 20, 2017