Nontheists Call Trinity Lutheran Decision a Supreme Threat to Religious Freedom

Washington, DC -- The Secular Coalition for America released a statement today criticizing the Supreme Court's ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. The case centered around the question of whether a Missouri church could receive state grants to renovate its playground. In its decision, the court ruled 7-2 that the state's policy of prohibiting churches from receiving grants violated the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.  

Statement by Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America

"Today the Supreme Court has ruled that taxpayers must sometimes subsidize churches. By deciding that churches are eligible for public grants, the court has empowered government employees and state lawmakers to decide which religious institutions ought to receive taxpayer money. This is precisely the entanglement of religion and government that the wall of separation between church and state is intended to safeguard against. When taxpayer money is allowed to flow to religious institutions, it will inevitably be used to further the church's explicitly religious mission. Taxpayers should not be compelled to support religious institutions and the state should not be empowered to pick winners and losers from among the many houses of worship competing for a finite amount of public money.

The impact of the Supreme Court's decision today will extend far beyond the playground of Trinity Lutheran. Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed to the stakes of this case in her dissenting opinion writing that, ‘This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government - that is, between church and state. The court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church. Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country's longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.'

The court has ruled that the state cannot "discriminate" against church applications for public grants, however many churches can and do still discriminate against members of the public. If religious institutions receive public money to provide social services, those vital programs must be made available to everyone, including atheists, LGBT persons, or people of different faiths. The court's decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer has paved the way for taxpayer-funded discrimination and the imposition of religious beliefs on vulnerable people who need help. The Trinity Lutheran v. Comer decision opens the door for an untold number of future policies that will blur the line between church and state."

CONTACT: Casey Brescia, Communications Associate, [email protected], (845) 380-6201

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The Secular Coalition for America is the nation's premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.

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