Supreme Court rules for Missouri church in playground case

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court has ruled that churches have the same right as other charitable groups to seek state money for new playground surfaces and other non-religious needs.

The justices on Monday ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri. The church sought a grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground, but was denied any money even though its application was ranked fifth out of 44 submissions.

Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court that it “is odious to our Constitution” to exclude the church from the grant program. Roberts said that’s true even though the consequences are only “a few extra scraped knees.”

“Today is a great day for Missouri’s Trinity Lutheran Church, and an even better day for religious freedom in America. With today’s ruling, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that the First Amendment does not permit government to discriminate against churches or religious organizations on the basis of faith. People of faith cannot be treated like second-class citizens. Governor Jay Nixon’s administration was wrong to interpret Missouri’s Constitution to require such unlawful discrimination. Today’s decision means discrimination of this kind will never be permitted again in the state of Missouri, or anywhere,”said Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in a statement.

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