From playgrounds to wedding cakes to something called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” religious freedom has been winning lately in the courts.
Stuart Shepard asks Ashley Shaw, Family Policy Alliance’s new legal expert, to explain the nuances of these court actions and how they impact Christians across America.
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.