Ted Cruz weighed in today on the fight against religious discrimination that has come before SCOTUS. The case, Trinity Lutheran vs. Comer, is a landmark battle for religious groups and one of the first involving Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Cruz, who delivered his message through an aide, said this fight is “crucial to stop the erosion of constitutional protections” and that “[t]his may be the most important case this year.” The junior Texas Senator has long been a strong defender of religious liberty, and his voice brings additional national attention to this already high profile case.
Trinity Lutheran Church Learning Center, a church affiliated preschool, applied for a state program to use recycled tires to improve the safety of their playground. More details of the case can be found at Becketlaw.org.
“Trinity Lutheran ranked fifth of 44 applicants based on overall quality of the intended project, the number of people who would benefit from the improved playground, and the quality of the school’s recycling education programs. However, despite the school’s high ranking, the state denied the grant solely because it was associated with a church.”
The state is attempting to use the Blaine Amendment, a centuries old amendment intended to discriminate against Catholic affiliated organizations, to deny the grant. This case should serve as a reminder to all Americans that we must remain vigilant and in defending religious institutions. We all like to think “this could never happen in my community”, but Missouri is not exactly a hotbed of secular liberalism. In this case the state is willfully ignoring the safety of preschool aged children, so it’s hard to imagine a religious institution that would be safe from similar discrimination.
A strict interpretation of the amendment would deny any government services to religious affiliated organizations, creating serious concerns about the ability of the state to provide equal protection to religious groups. The interpretation argued by the state in this case is a clear case of religious discrimination, and a ruling against Trinity Lutheran would likely set off a wave of legal challenges against religious groups across the country.
For example, a negative ruling could theoretically be used to deny school vouchers to religious schools or government grants and scholarships for students at some private colleges. Many states have similar Blaine Amendments, so the consequences could be fair reaching. This is a case we should all be watching closely, and we should be thankful to have a strong ally in Senator Cruz.