If government offers a program to everyone, can it reject some people specifically because they happen to be Christian? That’s exactly what happened in Missouri, and the Supreme Court will decide the legal question this year. [Ed. note: The court has moved five cases, including this one, to the next term that starts in October.]
Both sides are currently filing briefs in the case. Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are representing Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia that operates a preschool and daycare. It applied to a state program that surfaces playgrounds using recycled tires. But once the state realized the money would go to Christians, it turned down the request.
ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley says the children on the playground should have the same opportunities as all the other kids in Missouri.
“Children’s safety is just as important on church daycare playgrounds as it is on other daycare playgrounds,” he explained. “Excluding Trinity Lutheran from this program exhibits an undeniable hostility to religion that violates the Constitution’s essential mandate of religious neutrality.”
The church lost at the appeals court level. A victory at the Supreme would establish a precedent for all Christian organizations that seek government assistance.
God’s Not Dead 2 takes on one of the most pressing issues of our time – religious freedom.
In the sequel, a school teacher (played by Melissa Joan Hart), is challenged because she mentioned Jesus in answer to a student’s question. The story unfolds as she heads to court to defend her faith.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Erik Stanley defended a case in real life that served as the inspiration for one of the subplots of the film.
“The movie really illustrates the ongoing attack on Christianity in the public square, in the schools and on university campuses,” Stanley said. “And we see that every day in the number of cases that we deal with on this issue.”
In a secondary plot, pastors face pressure to turn over their sermons as part of the case. It mirrors a case he worked on involving Texas pastors who opposed a bathroom bill that allowed men access to women’s locker rooms.
“All that these pastors did was to stand up and speak out against an ordinance that they felt was immoral,” Stanley said, “and in return the city of Houston subpoenaed their sermons, their communications with their members about issues such as homosexuality — really as a message to these pastors that you better be quiet, you better not speak out.”
Grace, the main character in God’s Not Dead 2, stands firm despite intense pressure. It’s a lesson Stanley says more American Christians may have to learn.
“People might think this is sensationalized,” Stanley explained. “but Christians will have a decision to make in the coming days. Do you stand and do you fight, or do you sit down and take it? We know that more often than not, when Christians stand and fight, we win.”
The movie opens in theaters April 1.