JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Will Kraus, R–Lee’s Summit, today issued the following statement regarding Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, Director, Missouri Department of Natural Resources:
“On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer — a case many have watched closely and one with potentially far-reaching implications in the ongoing church-state debate. By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church, concluding that the state of Missouri cannot deny a church public funding for a secular need simply because it’s a religious institution.
For those who aren’t familiar with the case, in 2012, Trinity Lutheran Church applied for a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to resurface its playground using recycled scrap tires. Program applicants must compete for the grants. Despite receiving one of the highest scores, the department denied Trinity Lutheran’s funding, citing a state constitutional provision (known as a Blaine amendment) that prohibits the use of public money for religious purposes. Lower courts upheld the Department of Natural Resources’ decision.
Missouri courts were wrong in their interpretation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Their rulings allowed our state government to discriminate against Trinity Lutheran Church simply for being a church, even though it was seeking a benefit that was open to the public and was to be used for a secular purpose. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: ‘The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.’
I strongly support the Supreme Court’s ruling, and I believe it will prove to be a great step on the path to ensuring people of faith are not treated like second-class citizens.”