The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) applauds the 7-2 decision reached by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2017, in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. The ruling states that the state of Missouri cannot deny public funds to a church simply because it is a religious organization.
This major case involved the denial of a state grant program to the Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center (daycare and preschool) to install a safer playground surface using recycled tires. Although it placed fourth in the grant competition, the center was denied the funding solely because it was run by a religious institution and the Missouri state constitution disallows aid to such institutions. The Supreme Court’s ruling states that “The department’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status.”
While this case specifically concerns Missouri, many states have their own versions of the constitutional provision used by Missouri to deny money to Trinity Lutheran—they’re referred to as Blaine Amendments. Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions based on the 19th century era of anti-Catholicism.
Dr. Tom Burnford, president/CEO of NCEA said, “It is the hope of NCEA that this decision will support efforts to repeal similar Blaine Amendments, while allowing all states to provide parents with more choices in selecting the best options for educating their children.”