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A Church Playground Controversy Grew Into a Supreme Court Decision

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court this week could reframe the separation of church and state, especially with regard to the flow of public funding and aid programs.
June 27, 2017, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state of Missouri cannot deny public funds to a church simply because it is a religious organization," reports Emma Green.

The relevance of the court ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer is framed in this article and others for its potential to redefine the legal boundaries between church and state, but one look at the controversy that led to the court case reveals its implications for planning: the case grew out of a request by Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri for a state grant to resurface its playground. Though the project seemed a strong candidate for the grant, "Missouri denied the funding under a state constitutional provision that prohibits public money from going to religious organizations and houses of worship."

According to Green, many states would have made the same decision as Missouri in this case, under the power of so-called "Blaine amendments." Missouri and other states will now have to re-evaluate there consideration of churches applying for funding from secular, neutral aid programs. "This is the first time the court has said the government is required to provide public funding directly to a religious organization," according to Green, with implications for such institutions as private schools, but also, significantly, for anyone who applies for competitive federal funding for development projects.

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Published on Monday, June 26, 2017 in The Atlantic
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