Gorsuch, Religious Freedom, and Playground Rubber

Today the United States Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the 113th Justice of the United States Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left more than a year ago by the death of Antonin Scalia.

This confirmation is validation for those who voted for President Trump mostly or solely because of his promise that he would nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

While the result is encouraging, the process exposed the troubling and disproportionate power the Supreme Court now has.

Rather than being the least powerful branch of government that merely interprets laws created by others, it has become the left’s preferred method of social engineering when those who are elected say, “No thanks” to their best new idea.

Most of the most significant assaults on life and marriage have come through the courts.  Now, the debate over religious freedom is largely being waged in the courts as well. And very soon we will see exactly what we are getting with Justice Gorsuch.

Perhaps the first case he hears as a member of the Supreme Court will be a significant religious freedom case involving, of all things, playground rubber.

The state of Missouri has a recycled program tire.  People pay a fee to the state to take their old, unwanted tires and the state uses that money to fund grant programs around the state that encourage schools and organizations to purchase playground pads composed of recycled rubber. Safer kids, smaller landfills; everyone wins

Their funds, however, are limited.

So the state created a list of criteria they use to determine which applicants will receive grant dollars.  They consider, among other things, the organization’s demonstrated commitment to the community as well as the need in the community being served.

When all the applications were evaluated initially, the application with the fifth highest score (out of forty-four) was Trinity Lutheran Church.

The top fourteen applicants received grant money.

The state, however, was uncomfortable with their status as a church and upon investigation eliminated them from consideration despite the fact that they were qualified based on the criteria initially established.

The state took the position that subsidizing the rubber padding on the playground constitutes the use of government money to promote religion.

Maybe they’re concerned a child will thank Jesus when their head doesn’t break open when they fall?

This case is troubling because Trinity Lutheran was denied an opportunity available to every other individual and organization in the State of Missouri solely because they are a church.

Of course, no one wants state funded religion.

But that does not mean that churches should be deprived of secular opportunities otherwise available to everyone else in the community.

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment was written specifically to prohibit the government from punishing people because of their religion.  One’s faith should make no difference to their legal rights, duties, or opportunities.

Many Americans who feel that way are probably a key reason Donald Trump was elected President.  And now Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court.  Very soon, we’ll see if the people got what they bargained for.


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5 replies
  1. Penny
    Penny says:

    Neil Gorsuch will turn out to be more closely like Chief Justice John Roberts, a moderate, and not Judge Antonin Scalia. Our hope was Roberts would be a conservative but has been a bit of a disappointment. I love Antonin Scalia. It is my prayer that the next justice be just like him. Neil Gorsuch was not even on the top ten list of Constitutional justices of the Heritage Foundation. With his daughter and son-in-law (both of whom are New York city liberal democrats) taking ever more greater roles in Trumps administration our hopes of ever getting a true Constitutional Justice gets slimmer, BUT God, He can do it! He can change the hearts of men. Hallelujah. This is what I am praying for.

    Reply
  2. Connie Davit-Erickson
    Connie Davit-Erickson says:

    Judge Neil Gorsuch is one of the most qualified SC Judges who is ever confirmed to the Court. His qualifications exemplifies to his to proven abilities of following the Constitution. He will rule by the constitution and not by any politics. He is the best Judge to take over Judge Scalia who was also a constitutionalist. Judge Scalia is both a conservative as well following all the framework of the constitution.

    Reply
  3. Jim King
    Jim King says:

    Could not agree more – the chief reason I voted for Trump was his promise to appoint a conservative justice to the Supreme Court. Even more the major reason I support this ministry (both financially​ and through prayer) is my concern we are losing religious freedoms​ in this country. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. The King of the universe is still on His throne and Jesus is still Lord.

    Reply
  4. John Leslie
    John Leslie says:

    I believe this has been argued before and is the reason we started down this slippery slope in the first place. If anyone can quote it, there was a decision handed down, I believe in the 30’s or 40’s in which the dropping off point for defining “state sponsored religion” was argued. Points like:

    1. Should there be city sidewalks at churches?
    2. Should police service be offered to churches? Fire?
    3. Utilities? Especially if they are subsidized in any way.

    Ultimately, at what point does the state become a sponsor of religion?

    Reply

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