The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Missouri case in which state funds can be used for religious institutions. The case stems from a program in which recycled rubber from tires is used to create a safer surface for children’s playgrounds.
A church in Missouri wanted funds from this grant program to improve their playground, but were denied because of a constitutional amendment restricting public funds to be used for churches.
According to the story, the church initially sued and lost on appeal, but now the Supreme Court is taking up the case.
The attorneys for the church make the argument that the use of the funds don’t promote any religion and therefore the church should be able to participate in these grant programs, however, people like Richard Katskee, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State disagree. He says:
“It’s a competitive grant program, with winners and losers. … There’s a government official who decides who gets the money. That can be done because that’s the favorite faith of that government official. Even if it’s done on neutral criteria, those whose houses of worship don’t get the money are going to feel rightly it’s favoring other faiths.
According to the report, this is going to be a case to watch because it will challenge Blaine Amendments that exist in 38 states. About Blaine Amendments, the report says:
In 1875, Maine Sen. James G. Blaine proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit public money from going to “sectarian” schools.
At the time, “sectarian” was code for “Catholic.” Public schools required students to read from Protestant texts, sing Christian hymns and say Protestant prayers.
Religious scholars attribute the widespread adoption of Blaine Amendments to increased Catholic immigration — and the opening of more Catholic schools — in the 1800s, which led to a fear that the government would begin to fund Catholic education.
What’s interesting is this all started because you had one sect of Christianity trying to discriminate against the other.