The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments today in a case involving controversial Blaine Amendments.
The case involves Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri, which wanted to use scrap tires from a state program for schools to replace its gravel-covered playground and make it safer for children.
Becket attorney Hannah Smith says the state rejected the application because Trinity is a religious institution.
“That's blatantly unconstitutional,” Smith tells OneNewsNow. “The children who play on the Trinity Lutheran preschool playground are just as important as any other children in the state of Missouri, and the state shouldn't be discriminating against them just because they attend a preschool that's run by a church.”
Missouri is one of 38 states that have Blaine Amendments, many of them added to state constitutions as large groups of Catholics immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800s.
Named for U.S. Congressman James G. Blaine, the laws prohibit the use of state funds at “sectarian” schools.
“Today these laws are used to discriminate against all religious groups,” Smith says. “They are used to deny minorities and low-income families access to basic government services. This happens in cases involving textbooks, for example, and special needs education. But they're also used to deny funding for successful programs for prisoners trying to reenter society.”
The state argues that providing grants to a religious school would mean government entanglement in religion but Becket argues that providing a grant to a Christian preschool for playground resurfacing doesn’t represent government endorsement of religion.
Both arguments will be made today before the nation's highest court.