It's easy to overlook the Supreme Court case Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer which dealt with playgrounds, but Monday's ruling was actually a very big deal for liberty.
Missouri has a state program providing grants to help provide rubberized, recycled tires to cover playground to keep kids safe. However, one highly-ranked preschool and daycare was excluded from obtaining the funds because it's run by a church. Here's a video which explains the significance of the case:
As Constitutional attorney David French wrote, "While there are many threats to religious liberty, few are more consequential over the long term than the state’s ever-expanding role in private life. If the government is able to vacuum up tax dollars, create programs large and small for public benefit, and then exclude religious individuals or institutions from those programs, it has functionally created two tiers of citizenship. Secular individuals and institutions enjoy full access to the government they fund, while religious individuals and institutions find themselves funding a government that overtly discriminates against them."
Justice Roberts was pretty clear in his 7-to-2 majority opinion on the matter:
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion. And the result of the State’s policy is nothing so dramatic as the denial of political office. The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. 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.
This is significant for two reasons, according to French:
1. "First, it places another brick in a wall of precedent that stands for the proposition that once the state creates a neutral program — one designed neither to advance nor to inhibit religious practice — it can’t exclude citizens or institutions from that program merely because they’re religious."
2. "Second, seven of the nine justices concurred in the result of the case. This means that the principle of religious nondiscrimination in public programs has broad judicial support."
This is a big win for self-governance and the First Amendment.
Image Credit: Screen Grab