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WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court seems poised to strike down constitutional amendments in 39 states that forbid tax money from going to churches after Wednesday’s oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, unless two procedural issues derail the case at the last minute.
Missouri has a state program in which they reimburse organizations who use recycled tire rubber to make floor surfaces on playgrounds softer and safer for children. Trinity Lutheran Church runs a preschool daycare, but is disqualified from being reimbursed because it is a church-related organization.
Attempt - Amendment - Taxpayer - Money - Organizations
In the late 1800s, there was an anti-Catholic attempt nationwide to pass a federal constitutional amendment that would bar taxpayer money from going to any religious organizations, on the theory that it would block Roman Catholic schools. While this “Blaine Amendment” never passed at the federal level, 39 states adopted similar provisions in their state constitutions. Missouri is one of those states.
Although originally intended to target the Catholic faith, Blaine Amendments apply to all churches and primarily faith-based operations. As time went on all faiths have found themselves deprived of these programs, whether Evangelical, liberal Protestant, Jewish, or other faiths. Blaine Amendments became a legal tool to push secularism over faith.
Lawyers - Experts - Decades - Amendments - Free
Many lawyers and experts have argued for decades that Blaine Amendments violate the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which provides that the government will not abridge the free exercise of religion. But that is what is happening here, where a church is disqualified from being treated like everyone else for a purely secular program solely because it is an organization that also exercises religious faith.
Justice Elena Kagan may have tipped her hand that she might side with people of faith in this case, which would suggest this could be a lopsided vote in favor of religious liberty, rather than a 5-4...
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