An early read on SCOTUS church-state case

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
 | 
Charlie Butts (OneNewsNow.com)

U.S. Supreme CourtU.S. Supreme Court justices, including the newest member, seem to be siding with a religious organization in a state-versus-church case. That's according to an observer who was there to hear the arguments.

Earlier today, the high court heard a Missouri church's challenge to its exclusion from a state program that provides grants to use scrap tires to cushion school playgrounds. Trinity Lutheran Church's school in Columbia qualified close to the top of the list of organizations to receive such grants, but the state rejected the church's grant on the basis of government entanglement in religion.

Travis Weber of the Family Research Council attended arguments and says justices focused on constitutional issues: the First and Fourth Amendments.

"You know, it's important the court decide this case because it's ultimately about whether religious groups, churches, religious people can be treated unfairly and discriminated against and whether it's permissible to treat non-religious actors and entities and people better than them," he tells OneNewsNow. "That's ultimately what the case is about."

Justices directed some pointed questions to Missouri's attorney, James Layton, about religious freedom. Newly sworn Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch was among them.

"He did very well," Weber says of Gorsuch's inquiries. "He did not chime in a lot, but when he did he clearly showed that he was not buying the state's argument here ...."

Weber

Weber predicts a ruling favoring the church. "I am very optimistic ... At least seven justices, I think, indicated their support for Trinity Lutheran here," he offers. "It's tough to get a gauge on Justice Ginsberg or Justice Sotomayor, but this decision might be unanimous. I think it's likely at least 7-2."

Although Missouri Governor Eric Greitens issued an order last week reversing the state's earlier decision, the case moved forward at the Supreme Court because of the more important constitutional issues.

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