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AFTER the April 19th oral argument in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v Comer, a fight over religion and rubber, it seemed the church was in good shape. On June 26th, that hunch was confirmed. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court told Missouri it had violated the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause by excluding Trinity Lutheran Church from a grant programme providing new rubberised surfaces for pre-school playgrounds. In a crisp opinion for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts called the “exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church” a policy that is “odious to our constitution...and cannot stand”.
The chief justice noted that when children “fall on the playground or tumble from the equipment”, pea gravel underfoot “can be unforgiving”. Missouri may not be subjecting children to “chains or torture on account of religion” and “a few extra scraped knees” is about the extent of the physical harm that leaving churches out of...Continue reading