Trinity Lutheran Supreme Court ruling is not the final verdict on allowing private school vouchers

Last April I called your attention to Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc,. vs. Sara Parker Pauley, in her official capacity which had been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Here’s what I wrote:

“The case revolves around the church’s desire to participate in a Missouri state program that recycles used tires for material that provides rubber surfaces for playgrounds. The local Department of Natural Resources refused Trinity’s request for a $20,000 grant to be spent on the resurfacing of its playground because of the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment, which reads ‘No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.’”

In a seven to two ruling, the court found yesterday that because the Trinity Lutheran Church was trying to obtain a public service that non-sectarian organizations were also getting it could not be discriminated against because of its religious affiliation.  As the CATO Institute’s Neal McClusky points out “This should have been a simple decision: It is clearly unequal treatment of religious Americans under the law to say “the reason you are ineligible for this benefit for which anyone else is eligible is that you are religious.”

The opinion of the majority stated that “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.”  But, as the Center for Education Reform points out, the finding was narrow in scope and did not directly address the Blaine Amendments that are found in the constitutions of 37 states.  This will have to come on another day.  For now, we will simply have to continue to fight for parents to have the freedom to send their children to the school of their choice.

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