Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Supreme Court rules on church playgrounds; are vouchers for religious schools next? | EdSource

Supreme Court rules on church playgrounds; are vouchers for religious schools next? | EdSource:

Supreme Court rules on church playgrounds; are vouchers for religious schools next?



Read the Opinion: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer





U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other supporters of school choice are hailing a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday as one more step toward tearing down states’ opposition to tuition vouchers for private and religious schools.
Opponents in California and in other states whose constitutions ban using taxpayer money for religious schools, while disappointed with the ruling, are warning not to read too much into it.
In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, MO. v. Comer, the court ruled 7-2 that the state of Missouri violated a church’s right to freely exercise religion by denying it a state-funded grant to improve the church’s preschool playground. Speaking for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Missouri’s policy excluding churches from participating in the playground retrofit program “expressly discriminates against otherwise eligible recipients by disqualifying them from a public benefit solely because of their religious character.” This, Roberts wrote, “is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”
The state funded 14 of 44 schools that had sought money to fix their playgrounds. Trinity Lutheran’s application had been rated 5th-most eligible before state officials ruled that the Missouri Constitution prohibited using public money to support religious schools.
California, like Missouri, is one of three dozen states that in the late 19th century passed the “Blaine Amendment,” named for a prominent politican from Maine, prohibiting the use of public money for religious schools. California’s version also bans teaching “any sectarian or denominational doctrine … directly or indirectly,” in any public school.
In a footnote to the decision, Roberts implied that the decision applied only to Supreme Court rules on church playgrounds; are vouchers for religious schools next? | EdSource:
 

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