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Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer
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Interesting case to kick off Justice Gorsuch's tenure on the Court. In summary, Missouri denied a Christian church's application for public grant money that would resurface their playground with a more child-friendly surface, on the grounds that the state constitution prohibits it ("no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.")

Seems to me a reasonable outcome, given that, if I'm not mistaken, they are free to discriminate on religious grounds in terms of who they allow to use the facility. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if Gorsuch determines the outcome.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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It seems like a decision that was in accord with Missouri's state constitution. I'm not sure it was entirely reasonable.

Why discriminate against religious schools? Why privilege non-religious schools?








"People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world."
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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I don't see any mention in your post if this is a church playground or a playground that the church operates at a school they run or a daycare. Could you elaborate? I went to a "private school" run along religious lines however anyone was free to use the playground outside of school hours. We once were offered a gov't grant to improve our playground but when the school society found out the grant came from lottery money they declined it. In the tradition I come from independent (of gov't) schools are generally run by parents rather than the church even if run along religious lines. If the grant is for a playground one could argue that it is not promoting a particular religion.

sphere wrote:
Interesting case to kick off Justice Gorsuch's tenure on the Court. In summary, Missouri denied a Christian church's application for public grant money that would resurface their playground with a more child-friendly surface, on the grounds that the state constitution prohibits it ("no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.")

Seems to me a reasonable outcome, given that, if I'm not mistaken, they are free to discriminate on religious grounds in terms of who they allow to use the facility. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if Gorsuch determines the outcome.

Life is full of froth and trouble, two things stand in stone
Kindness in another's troubles, courage in one's own
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [vitus979] [ In reply to ]
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Ultimately it comes down to tax dollars being given to a private religious institution. I think it would be reasonable to include nonreligious private institutions among those who don't qualify, as well, though religious institutions are afforded the right to discriminate whereas private nonreligious institutions are not. Religious entities should retain that right, IMO, but not while using taxpayer dollars to fund renovations.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [len] [ In reply to ]
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I don't know the answer to that question.

I don't believe that allowing grants to go to religious schools would run afoul of the Establishment clause, provided that all religions are treated equally in the process.

The issue is complicated by the fact that daycare centers likely constitute a large minority, if not majority, of recipients of the grant, and the vast majority of them are for-profit private enterprises. So I'm not sure the public versus private distinction is useful in this matter, though I believe the religious discrimination concerns reinforce why state constitutional prohibitions on diverting tax dollars to religious institutions are reasonable--or, requirements that religious institutions that opt in play by the same rules as non-religious institutions.

Or, at least, as vitus would argue, perhaps useful, but not particularly reasonable.

Trinity takes the public grant, and refuses to enroll a transgender kid, or a kid from a same-sex marriage, claiming religious objections. Regardless of how one feels about those issues, I think most people would agree that's problematic. There may be another way to accommodate all parties and not bar religious schools from receiving public grants, but the states that do prohibit it certainly won't have that particular problem to deal with.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
Last edited by: sphere: Apr 18, 17 19:58
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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Would a similarly situated non-religious private institution be denied the grant? If no, then that is discriminatory on religious grounds. Also a literal reading (I have not bothered to see how it has been interpreted) of the clause would mean that a grant is permissible in that it is not for religious purposes.
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [windywave] [ In reply to ]
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If no, then that is discriminatory on religious grounds.


That's essentially what the pending case will, hopefully, finally rule on. National Review has a brief but informative legal overview of the case.

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In Trinity Lutheran, the Court will decide whether explicitly excluding religious options from public-aid programs violates the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause. In other words, having determined in Zelman that states are constitutionally permitted to include religious schools in school-choice programs, the Court will now decide whether states are prohibited from discriminating against religious schools when providing public services.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/...ase-trinity-lutheran


That's kind of a big deal.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
Last edited by: sphere: Apr 18, 17 19:57
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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Yeah, just a little bit of a big deal. ;-)

I'll chime in with my 2 cents tomorrow. It's an interesting case, to say the least.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. - Will Rogers

Emery's Third Coast Triathlon | Tri Wisconsin Triathlon Team | Push Endurance | GLWR
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [windywave] [ In reply to ]
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the Court will now decide whether states are prohibited from discriminating against religious schools when providing public services.

On that point, I think it's fair and necessary to draw a distinction between inherently religious activity and providing a nonreligious public service. Prohibiting grant money from funding a feed-the-homeless initiative run by a Catholic charity, at which no religious services or ministry occurs, is different from providing grant money to a church-run daycare at which religious instruction is inherent to the service provided, regardless of what non-religious activities occur there. I have no objection to the former, but oppose the latter; the former is a public service, while the latter is an inherently religious activity that serves members of the religion.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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That's a hell of a slippery slope that could lead to the denial of federal funding to all religion-based institutions from kindergarten to higher education. I went to Jesuit law school and never heard God or Jesus mentioned once.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. - Will Rogers

Emery's Third Coast Triathlon | Tri Wisconsin Triathlon Team | Push Endurance | GLWR
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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Although it is often difficult to clearly distinguish between the two. I guess that is where it gets kind of murky. Some jurisdictions in Canada provide partial support to schools that have a religious character I guess on the grounds that alot of what they do is similar to public school ie teaching math, spelling etc. I appreciate that religious institutions get a taxable deduction status and think maybe we are better off not taking public grants and being able to retain our religious character. But I guess my viewpoint is a bit skewed because I have an above average income. Those with lower incomes find it more of a struggle to send a kid to a religious school.

sphere wrote:
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the Court will now decide whether states are prohibited from discriminating against religious schools when providing public services.


On that point, I think it's fair and necessary to draw a distinction between inherently religious activity and providing a nonreligious public service. Prohibiting grant money from funding a feed-the-homeless initiative run by a Catholic charity, at which no religious services or ministry occurs, is different from providing grant money to a church-run daycare at which religious instruction is inherent to the service provided, regardless of what non-religious activities occur there. I have no objection to the former, but oppose the latter; the former is a public service, while the latter is an inherently religious activity that serves members of the religion.

Life is full of froth and trouble, two things stand in stone
Kindness in another's troubles, courage in one's own
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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Prohibiting grant money from funding a feed-the-homeless initiative run by a Catholic charity, at which no religious services or ministry occurs, is different from providing grant money to a church-run daycare at which religious instruction is inherent to the service provided, regardless of what non-religious activities occur there.

I hear what you are saying but don't see the connection to the current case. I thought the grant program, and the application at issue, was to make playground surfaces safer and better for kids, not to provide funding for religious instruction. Or is there some reason that kids that get religious instruction should not have safe playgrounds?
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [H-] [ In reply to ]
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Setting aside the constitutional question, it's a compelling argument. It also brings to mind the Planned Parenthood predicament. I think it's reasonable to prohibit them from receiving taxpayer dollars so long as they're in the abortion business, even though tax dollars don't go directly to those services.

I may be wrong, but at least I'm consistent.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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I don't think it would be reasonable to prohibit planned parenthood from applying for a grant to buy, for instance, a mammogram machine.
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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sphere wrote:
Setting aside the constitutional question, it's a compelling argument. It also brings to mind the Planned Parenthood predicament. I think it's reasonable to prohibit them from receiving taxpayer dollars so long as they're in the abortion business, even though tax dollars don't go directly to those services.

I may be wrong, but at least I'm consistent.

Why? What part of the constitution separates the feds from abortion?
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [ThisIsIt] [ In reply to ]
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None. Refer to my first sentence in your quote.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [H-] [ In reply to ]
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H- wrote:
I don't think it would be reasonable to prohibit planned parenthood from applying for a grant to buy, for instance, a mammogram machine.

I'd be curious to hear how anti-PP conservatives would feel about that.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [JSA] [ In reply to ]
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JSA wrote:
That's a hell of a slippery slope that could lead to the denial of federal funding to all religion-based institutions from kindergarten to higher education. I went to Jesuit law school and never heard God or Jesus mentioned once.

Trinity is providing an explicitly religious education, unlike your Jesuit law school and my Methodist graduate school. Nothing in my medical training had any relationship to religion whatsoever, either. I take your point. I also took out federal loans and received a small federal grant to attend that school. At the bottom of that slippery slope lay a prohibition on both, I suppose.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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sphere wrote:
JSA wrote:
That's a hell of a slippery slope that could lead to the denial of federal funding to all religion-based institutions from kindergarten to higher education. I went to Jesuit law school and never heard God or Jesus mentioned once.

Trinity is providing an explicitly religious education, unlike your Jesuit law school and my Methodist graduate school. Nothing in my medical training had any relationship to religion whatsoever, either. I take your point. I also took out federal loans and received a small federal grant to attend that school. At the bottom of that slippery slope lay a prohibition on both, I suppose.

What is the purpose of the program: further a school or provide safer playgrounds? I feel it's the latter and therefore impermissible to deny them the funding.
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [windywave] [ In reply to ]
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What is the purpose of the program: further a school or provide safer playgrounds?

Further the school BY providing a newer/safer playground.
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [windywave] [ In reply to ]
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I don't know the merits on which the case will be decided, but in principle, I don't really disagree, provided the grant is used exclusively and verifiably for that purpose.

OTOH, if the church was planning to make those playground improvements regardless of the grant, and now the money it won't spend on the playground is now available to invest in religious-specific improvement or expansion, then we're back at the anti-PP fungible funding predicament, where (as it pertains to Trinity) tax dollars are being effectively steered to a religious institution for religious purposes.

The implications of the ruling are significant, to put it mildly. It could change the education funding landscape dramatically and, essentially, permanently. It also validates the position that it literally doesn't matter if you vote a potted plant into the White House, so long as that plant can be counted on to appoint a like-minded Justice to the Supreme Court. Today may well be the strategic voter's jackpot payday.

"Canada is like a lofty apartment over a really great party" Robin Williams
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [oldandslow] [ In reply to ]
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oldandslow wrote:
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What is the purpose of the program: further a school or provide safer playgrounds?

Further the school BY providing a newer/safer playground.

That is illogical. If the purpose was to further the school it wouldn't involve the play ground.
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [sphere] [ In reply to ]
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sphere wrote:
I don't know the merits on which the case will be decided, but in principle, I don't really disagree, provided the grant is used exclusively and verifiably for that purpose.

OTOH, if the church was planning to make those playground improvements regardless of the grant, and now the money it won't spend on the playground is now available to invest in religious-specific improvement or expansion, then we're back at the anti-PP fungible funding predicament, where (as it pertains to Trinity) tax dollars are being effectively steered to a religious institution for religious purposes.

The implications of the ruling are significant, to put it mildly. It could change the education funding landscape dramatically and, essentially, permanently. It also validates the position that it literally doesn't matter if you vote a potted plant into the White House, so long as that plant can be counted on to appoint a like-minded Justice to the Supreme Court. Today may well be the strategic voter's jackpot payday.

It's a preschool. My brother and I went to different nursery schools that weren't Catholic, the religious portion was the fact they were in church basements. I'd feel your argument would be stronger if it was a grade school or high school (though I don't quite agree with it) than a preschool. At the end of the day religion is a parental thing and a school's religious aspect in my and several people I know who attended Catholic schools all the way through (i went to public HS so can only speak to grade school) experience is de minimis compared to parental input.
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [oldandslow] [ In reply to ]
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oldandslow wrote:
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What is the purpose of the program: further a school or provide safer playgrounds?

Further the school BY providing a newer/safer playground.

Right, that would be one way to play the argument. In separate Planned Parenthood threads, some folks made the argument that even if Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal funds for abortions, those funds free up other resources that Planned Parenthood could then devote to abortion, and thus there is still in direct support from the government for abortion purposes. Seems like a similar line of reasoning could be argued in this case. Although the playground non-religious in nature, if the school does not have to spend its resources on the playground because it is supported by a government money, they can then use the money saved for other religious purposes.
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Re: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer [wimsey] [ In reply to ]
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wimsey wrote:
oldandslow wrote:
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What is the purpose of the program: further a school or provide safer playgrounds?

Further the school BY providing a newer/safer playground.

Right, that would be one way to play the argument. In separate Planned Parenthood threads, some folks made the argument that even if Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal funds for abortions, those funds free up other resources that Planned Parenthood could then devote to abortion, and thus there is still in direct support from the government for abortion purposes. Seems like a similar line of reasoning could be argued in this case. Although the playground non-religious in nature, if the school does not have to spend its resources on the playground because it is supported by a government money, they can then use the money saved for other religious purposes.

I personally don't think they're analogous. In one case there is discrimination due to religion and the other is denial of funding to a secular organization. Perhaps the funding is fungible, but what is the purpose of the program? It is to promote safety. Would you deny fire or police protection to the preschool? No officer friendly or stop drop and roll programs?
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