3 Things You Should Know About Neil Gorsuch's First Religious Liberty SCOTUS Case

Apr 21, 2017 by Will Maule

Barely a couple of weeks after new SCOTUS justice Neil Gorsuch is sworn in, he has a big case to deal with. And it is a religious liberty case involving a Church and a school - so right in at the deep end then! Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, involves a religious preschool that was rejected from a state program that provides reimbursement grants to purchase rubberized surface material (tire scraps) for children’s playgrounds, reports Christian Headlines.

The preschool was denied the grant for its playground simply because the playground belongs to a religious organization, even though it would technically be used for secular purposes.

So, here are a few things you need to know. 

1. Gorsuch may well get the deciding vote.
So far, the court has sided with the Church on the whole, though it is tight. So far, three lower courts have interpreted the relevant Supreme Court precedent (Locke v. Davey) as justifying the exclusion of religion from a neutral aid program where no valid Establishment Clause concern exists. However, two courts of appeals remain faithful to Locke and the unique historical concerns on which it relied.

2. There is a strong legal argument to suggest the preschool SHOULD get the grant.
The preschool has an “open gate” playground policy.  The playground is open to the community and is frequently used by children in the neighborhood after-hours and on the weekends. Thus, it is engaging in secular work, and should not be denied the grant, argues Alliance Defending Freedom. 

3. This is a highly significant case for the precedent of acceptable religious freedom.
The intertwining of religious freedom and state schooling makes this case very interesting, and very significant. The ruling could set prescendent for the future of court rulings. "The outcome of the case will determine whether the government can discriminate against religious organizations and exclude them from receiving a generally available public benefit simply because they are religious," writes Joe Carter at Christian Headlines. "A loss could mean that religious nonprofits could be excluded from government programs meant to serve their communities and even be denied basic safety services like fire and police protection, says ADF."

Pray for Judge Gorsuch as he makes his first landmark decision!

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