Goodbye, Establishment Clause

Jun 29, 2017

By Perry Grossman and Mark Joseph Stern

Does the Constitution sometimes obligate states to subsidize religion? On Monday, the Supreme Court said it does. According to the court’s 7–2 ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, when a state makes a funding program available to the public, it cannot deny funds to a church because of its status as a religious organization. This sets a dangerous precedent, one that betrays the court’s historical commitment to true religious freedom and threatens to obliterate the divide between church and state.

The facts of the case are simple. Trinity Lutheran Church owns a “Learning Center” that is used “to teach the Gospel to children.” The learning center’s facilities include a playground that is, in the church’s words, part of “an education program structured to allow a child to grow spiritually, physically, socially, and cognitively.” In 2012, the church applied for a grant through Missouri’s Scrap Tire Grant Program to help pay for playground resurfacing. The state rejected its application, citing a provision of the Missouri Constitution that bars the use of taxpayer money “in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.” Trinity Lutheran sued, alleging a violation of its Free Exercise rights under the First Amendment.

In his opinion for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts held that Missouri had run afoul of the Free Exercise Clause by denying Trinity Lutheran a “public benefit solely because of [its] religious character.” According to Roberts, the Missouri rule “puts Trinity Lutheran to a choice: It may participate in an otherwise available benefit program or remain a religious institution.” This “clear infringement on free exercise,” he asserted, “is odious to our Constitution.” Thus, Trinity Lutheran must be allowed to compete in the scrap tire program.

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14 comments on “Goodbye, Establishment Clause

  • Goodbye, Establishment Clause

    Nonsense.

    Establishment clause/Free Exercise clause.

    Balance. Government neutrality. Fairness. We find it in the 2nd amendment as well as the 1st, non-infringement/well regulated.

    My fellow atheists, learn to deal with the realities of this great big world or doom us to continue losing.



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  • We’ll see how balanced things are when a Muslim school, or a declared non-religious school asks for the same consideration.

    Just curious: where’s the balanced part of our current understanding of the Second Amendment in the context of “well-regulated militia”?

    Steve



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  • Agrajag #2 Jul 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Just curious: where’s the balanced part of our current understanding
    of the Second Amendment in the context of “well-regulated militia”?

    We presently have a number of restrictions and regulations on guns, how they are purchased, how and where they can be carried or discharged, and who can own them.

    Waiting periods, background checks, certain styles of guns, automatic weapons, explosives, concealed carry, handgun restrictions, local ordinances, state laws, federal laws and restrictions have all been upheld as constitutional as being “well regulated” as opposed to being struck down as infringements.



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  • @OP – Does the Constitution sometimes obligate states to subsidize religion? On Monday, the Supreme Court said it does.

    Perhaps the state can subsidize the promotion of “immortality” 🙂 – with this money collecting “alternative yogic science”, which should fit into Trump’s America just fine!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-40509494
    Followers of guru Ashutosh Maharaj insist he has been meditating since his apparent death in 2014

    An Indian court has granted permission for the followers of a long-dead spiritual guru to preserve his body in a freezer.

    Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the sect Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission), died of a suspected heart attack in January 2014.

    But his followers insist he is only meditating deeply, and will one day return to life.

    They have kept his body in a commercial freezer at his vast ashram in Punjab.

    The judgement by Punjab and Haryana High Court ends a three-year-old dispute between the guru’s disciples and Dalip Kumar Jha, who claims to be his son.

    Mr Jha had sought permission to cremate the guru’s body, in line with Hindu rituals.

    In rejecting his plea, the court set aside a 2014 judgement that had ordered the guru’s cremation after doctors confirmed him clinically dead.

    Mr Maharaj first established his sect in Jalandhar, Punjab, in 1983, to promote “self-awakening and global peace”.

    Over years, it attracted millions of followers across the world and amassed properties worth an estimated $120m (£92m) in India, the US, South America, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe.

    The heavily-guarded 100-acre ashram in Punjab where the guru has been kept is just one sign of his vast financial assets.

    Mr Jha has accused the guru’s disciples of retaining his body as a ploy to keep control of his wealth.

    Shortly after his death in 2014, the guru’s spokesman Swami Vishalanand told the BBC: “He is not dead. Medical science does not understand things like yogic science.
    We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back.”




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  • Alan4discussion #5
    Jul 5, 2017 at 11:45 am

    @OP – Does the Constitution sometimes obligate states to subsidize religion? On Monday, the Supreme Court said it does.

    Perhaps the state can subsidize the promotion of “immortality” ???? –
    with this money collecting “alternative yogic science”, which should
    fit into Trump’s America just fine!

    If the yoga group is a legally classified non-profit and if they operate a playground and if they meet the objective secular requirements of the program then yes, the mere fact that they seem like a bunch of crackpots to us does not mean they can be denied equal access to benefits and services under the law.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #6
    Jul 5, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    If the yoga group is a legally classified non-profit and if they operate a playground and if they meet the objective secular requirements

    Yeah! Promoting Religious nuttery is obviously an “objective secular objective”!

    Perhaps they can put the iced guru on display for the children and give them a few lessons in that “secular yogic science” which real doctors don’t understand! 🙂



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  • Stardusty Psyche #3 – Jul 4, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    state laws, federal laws and restrictions have all been upheld as constitutional as being “well regulated”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40514995

    At least 101 people were shot in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, according to a city newspaper.

    Nearly half of the shootings during the four-day holiday happened over 12 hours, reports the Chicago Tribune.

    The youngest victim was a 13-year-old boy and the oldest a 60-year-old man.

    Yep! That gun regulation works a treat, and really affords protection to US citizens – along with a travel ban keeping out with foreign nationals from countries which have no history of supplying any terrorists to the US mainland! 🙂

    The US operating under the THOUGHTS OF CHAIRMAN TRUMP – written one executive order at a time!



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  • Alan4discussion #8
    Jul 6, 2017 at 4:27 am

    Stardusty Psyche #6
    Jul 5, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    If the yoga group is a legally classified non-profit and if they operate a playground and if they meet the objective secular requirements

    Yeah! Promoting Religious nuttery is obviously an “objective secular
    objective”!

    Religious nuts have secular civil rights just like all other American citizens.

    Here in the USA we don’t ban groups like the Nazi Party, because they are American citizens with rights. Jeffrey Dahmer was entitled to and received a fair trial because this is the USA and that’s how we roll.

    If you don’t believe in equal protection for those you despise, you don’t believe in it at all.

    If you don’t believe in free exercise for those you despise, you don’t believe in it at all.

    If you don’t believe in freedom of expression for those you despise, you don’t believe in it at all.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #10
    Jul 6, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Religious nuts have secular civil rights just like all other American citizens.

    Religious PERSONS have civil rights of citizens!
    Religious ORGANISATIONS do not!

    Is it really that difficult to understand the difference?



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  • Alan4discussion #11
    Jul 6, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Stardusty Psyche #10
    Religious nuts have secular civil rights just like all other American citizens.

    Religious PERSONS have civil rights of citizens!

    Yes, in this case those are the “nuts”.

    Religious ORGANISATIONS do not! Is it really that difficult to
    understand the difference?

    Organizations have equal rights compared to other organizations. Thus, the court held in
    Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, “This Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion ”

    Trinity Lutheran v. Comer was rightly decided.

    Claims that Trinity Lutheran v. Comer somehow attacks the establishment clause are specious.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #12
    Jul 7, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Organizations have equal rights compared to other organizations.

    . . . . Unless some legal or constitutional requirement says otherwise! – Which it does!

    While lawyers and particularly religiously biased lawyers, will twist arguments every which-way to hide the inherent logic, the separation of church and state in the US has been very clearly defined for many years!

    The fact that stooges have been appointed to pervert this – as with all of Trump’s appointments, and lunatic pronouncements about “So-called judges, these perverse appointments for propaganda purposes make no difference to the actual meaning of words, although they do create a facade of deception – particularly among the uneducated.

    I think your problem with the skills required to understand legal, scientific and logically presented information, is explained here:-

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2017/06/montana-initiative-would-limit-transgender-use-of-bathrooms/#li-comment-223475

    Claims that Trinity Lutheran v. Comer somehow attacks the establishment clause are specious.

    Which is a nonsensical assertion. given that it contradicts the the constitutional legal requirements of separation of church ans state.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #1
    Jun 29, 2017 at 10:33 pm –

    My fellow atheists, learn to deal with the realities of this great big world or doom us to continue losing.

    Ah! The “realities” of this great big world – as simplistically misrepresented to the uncritical and uneducated, by Murdock’s tabloid rags and Faux News!



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