Monday, 18 June, 2018

Supreme Court playground ruling feeds school voucher debate

Supreme Court will hear sports betting case Duncan Lock via Wikimedia Commons
Nicole Thomas | 29 June, 2017, 09:02

In a passionate and blistering dissent, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justice Ginsburg, wrote, "If this separation means anything, it means that the government can not, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship".

"I think the Supreme Court recognizes the stakes are very high, and we hope to persuade the court and ultimately prevail on the grounds that the First Amendment protects every artist", said ADF attorney Nicolle Martin.

The commission ruled that Phillips' refusal to make the wedding cake violated the provision in the state's anti-discrimination law that says businesses open to the public may not deny service to customers based on their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

That case - Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer - centered on a church that sought to resurface a large portion of its playground by replacing pea gravel with a rubber surface made from recycled tires. Doyle and her husband chose to use that money to send their twins to Regis Jesuit, because they wanted to afford their children "a stronger spiritual foundation before college".

"These laws, which came to be called Blaine amendments, started in Missouri and they ended in Missouri as well with this Trinity Lutheran Church case", he states.

"The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which is it otherwise qualified, exclusively because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same and can not stand", he wrote in Trinity Lutheran vs. Comey. The issue was whether this ruling conflicted with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The decision was written by John Roberts, the Chief Justice. The issue may not seem like a big deal since it is just for a playground but as Roberts explained, the stakes of the decision were high. "But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, exclusively because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and can not stand".

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The Court's decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church held the latter. Chief Justice Roberts, however, limited the outcome of the decision by adding a footnote that this particular ruling is applicable on to the issue of discrimination for resurfacing the playground. They wanted to make sure it was about who was getting the money not how the money was issued.

"These cases regarding religious funding are always highly fact-specific", Yohnka said. The state of Missouri rejected the application. Two Justices, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas, concurred in the judgment, but not the entire opinion.

Some legal experts believe Gorsuch could cast a swing vote because he has a history of supporting religious beliefs. Respectfully, I harbor doubts about the stability of such a line.

Ron Upshaw, however, noted that Ross himself is a man of faith and wondered how he thought of the religious arguments that business owners often cite. "The general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise-whether on the playground or anywhere else", he wrote.

More than three dozen states have such constitutional provisions that bar the use of public money for religious purposes, which have effectively prohibited the establishment of voucher programs that give families direct government subsidies to pay for tuition at private and parochial schools.

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