Attorneys general from ten states have filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the Supreme Court to review a case involving a Christian preschool that was denied access to a state program.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources refused to let the Trinity Lutheran Church Learning Center participate in a state-sponsored grant program that provides ground-up, recycled tires to surface children's playgrounds. In disqualifying the Center, which is based in Columbia, the state agency pointed to a section of the Missouri constitution that prohibits government aid to religion.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Erik Stanley talks about the importance of this case.
"The brief has raised some very important points, including the fact that the court has taught that in cases where there are these generally available, neutral programs that the state has to be as blind to faith as it is blind to color; essentially that the state should not discriminate against religion," says the attorney.
Stanley says in past decisions the courts have failed to clarify what has become a confusing issue.
"The ten states really made it clear in their brief that they were confused because the courts have been all over the map when it comes to the participation by churches in neutral grant programs such as what Trinity Lutheran was participating in here," he explains. "So they want the Supreme Court to take up this case and to issue some clarity."
The brief submitted to the Justices states that "when the benefits sought have no tie to religion, withholding those benefits from churches alone seems arbitrary and unfair." The ten states joining in the brief are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Several other groups have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the Learning Center, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (Southern Baptist Convention), the Association of Christian Schools International, and the American Center for Law and Justice.