Wow. This is pretty amazing. Just days before the Supreme Court is set to hear an important religious liberty case, the state of Missouri has completely reversed itself and said they will now offer grant money to a Christian institution.
But it may not stop the case from being heard.
The state's new Governor, Eric Greitens, is the one who reversed it. But I'm not sure how to read him yet as he was a Democrat until 2015 and then ran for Governor as a Republican. But it's still unclear as to whether the Supreme Court case will still be heard because even though going forward religious institutions can receive state grants that doesn't retroactively allow the same. Did he do this because he's a fan of religious liberty or did he do it to avoid Gorsuch being the deciding voice in an important ruling that could serve as precedent? I dunno.
You might recall that Trinity Lutheran applied for a state grant to adapt recycled tires into a community playground. But the state said Christians need not apply. OK, technically they didn't say that but that's what they said in this case.
The Catholic News Agency reports:
Today, religious freedom advocates say the amendment is used by secularists to cut off all religious groups from state funding.I'm really interested to see which way this goes. I'm really hoping the high court still hears it. I'd like to know right away what we have in Gorsuch.
Then last week, Gov. Greitens said that churches and religious groups were now eligible for public grants from the state’s department of natural resources for purposes such as improving recreational facilities and field trips.
“Before we came into office, government bureaucrats were under orders to deny grants to people of faith who wanted to do things like make community playgrounds for kids,” Gov. Greitens stated, adding “that’s just wrong.”
“We have hundreds of outstanding religious organizations all over the state of Missouri who are doing great work on behalf of kids and families every single day. We should be encouraging that work. So, today we are changing that prejudiced policy,” he continued.
The state’s Catholic Conference praised the announcement.
“We applaud the Governor’s move to make sure these non-sectarian DNR grants and programs are available to all children without religious discrimination,” Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, stated.
The announcement is “an important step for the state of Missouri away from anti-religious Blaine Amendments,” McGuire insisted.
However, the statement did not officially mean that Trinity Lutheran was retroactively eligible for grants for its playground.
“Just as today’s announcement from the governor states, his new directive doesn’t resolve the discriminatory actions that were taken against Trinity Lutheran’s preschool and the attempt to deny Trinity Lutheran its constitutionally protected freedom to participate equally in society,” Cortman stated.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for this week, although the Supreme Court last Friday reacted to Gov. Greitens’ announcement by ordering the church and the state to determine whether or not his new policy would affect Trinity Lutheran’s eligibility for the playground grants.
The deadline for both parties to submit their letters to the Court is by noon on Tuesday, April 18.