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June 26, 2017

Supreme Court Rules State Cannot Discriminate Against Religious Schools

Gorsuch strikes twice.

The case involved grants made generally available to all schools in the state for refurbishment of run-down playgrounds. But then the state ruled that, while these funds were appropriated for all schools, religious schools nonetheless had to be affirmatively discriminated against, because you can't have government money ever going to icky religious schools (even if the money is not specifically to advance religion, but is just another state boondoggle of taxpayer cash for hard-to-argue-against feelgood spending programs).

Gorsuch and six other justices said Nah, brah.

The justices ruled 7-2 that Missouri stretched the constitutional separation of church and state too far by declaring a Lutheran church ineligible to receive a competitive state grant for playground resurfacing. The decision could have implications for more than 30 states that block public funds from going to religious organizations.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision. Only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Even though the state's denial of funds likely would lead only to "a few extra scraped knees," Roberts said, "the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benenfit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand."

...

"It does seem as though ... this is a clear burden on a constitutional right," liberal Justice Elena Kagan said then, in reference to the state's refusal to treat Trinity Lutheran Church equally to other non-profits seeking state grants. The church had met all the neutral criteria for the program.

Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas would have gone further than Roberts, who suggested in a footnote to the court's decision that the case "involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination."

Gorsuch wrote: "The general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise -- whether on the playground or anywhere else."

So once more: Gorsuch would have gone farther.

No John Roberts taint on this one.

As Craig Ferguson used to say, it's a great day in America.


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posted by Ace at 01:33 PM

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