Supreme Court sides with religious institutions in a major church-state decision

Jun 26, 2017

By Robert Barnes

The Supreme Court concluded its work for this session on Monday siding with religious institutions in a major church-state decision and with no indication that pivotal Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is retiring.

The speculation about Kennedy, who has served on the court for nearly three decades and is almost always the deciding vote in divisive cases on the nation’s biggest controversies, dominated the end of a relatively quiet Supreme Court term.

But the court’s announcement of final decisions came and went without any word from Kennedy, whose former clerks had speculated he was considering leaving. The rumors were closely watched at the White House, where a vacancy would give President Trump the chance to solidify a more conservative Supreme Court.

In the church-state case, the court ruled 7-2 that it violates the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion to exclude churches from state programs with a secular intent — in this case, making playgrounds safer.

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15 comments on “Supreme Court sides with religious institutions in a major church-state decision

  • it violates the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of
    religion to exclude churches from state programs with a secular intent

    Indeed it does.

    We atheists are very keen on the establishment clause, but far too many who like to consider themselves rationalists get selective memory loss when it comes to the free exercise clause.

    BTW, Ken Ham deserved the tourist attraction state tax incentive too.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #1
    Jun 29, 2017 at 1:00 am

    We atheists are very keen on the establishment clause, but far too many who like to consider themselves rationalists get selective memory loss when it comes to the free exercise clause.

    In applying reason, it is fairly simple –

    If churches are exempt from paying taxes and equal employment laws, (employing clergy etc. of their own faith,) they should also be exempt from receiving grants of public money which has been contributed to by everyone else!

    Try telling your insurance company that you are exempt from paying premiums, but are still entitled to make claims, or telling some club, you are exempt from paying membership subscriptions, but still entitled to use their facilities!

    many who like to consider themselves rationalists get selective memory loss when it comes to the free exercise clause.

    Freedom of individuals to have their own religious views, does not entitle them to impose them on other people (excluding theirs rights). Nor does it entitle them to state subsidies of their religion in preference to others, from communal tax funds to which they have not contributed.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #1
    Jun 29, 2017 at 1:00 am

    BTW, Ken Ham deserved the tourist attraction state tax incentive too.

    I suppose it could be considered a contribution to a world-wide public advertisement of some American states wasting money and resources, on backwardness, liars, ignorance, and stupidity in their attempts to achieve political and economic third-world status! 🙂



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  • Alan4discussion #2 Jun 29, 2017 at 5:26 am In applying reason, it is
    fairly simple –

    If churches are exempt from paying taxes and equal employment laws,
    (employing clergy etc. of their own faith,) they should also be exempt
    from receiving grants of public money which has been contributed to by
    everyone else!

    By that reasoning all public service organizations that receive tax breaks would have to be excluded from further government programs.

    Try telling your insurance company

    An insurance company is a for profit corporation.

    Take off your anti church blinders and you will see this was rightly decided.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #4
    Jun 29, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Alan4discussion #2 Jun 29, 2017 at 5:26 am
    In applying reason, it is fairly simple –

    If churches are exempt from paying taxes and equal employment laws,
    (employing clergy etc. of their own faith,) they should also be exempt
    from receiving grants of public money which has been contributed to by everyone else!

    By that reasoning all public service organizations that receive tax breaks would have to be excluded from further government programs.

    Err NO! Public service organisations which provide services for EVERYONE without religious discrimination, or religious exemptions, can be fairly funded by EVERYONE’s taxes.

    Try telling your insurance company

    An insurance company is a for profit corporation.

    So what? – It’s a commercial transaction, with contributors and qualifying beneficiaries.
    If it was a mutual non-profit insurance organisation, the same situation would apply. – No contributions – no benefits!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutual_insurance

    No free rides for those wearing religion badges, paid for by everyone else!

    Take off your anti church blinders and you will see this was rightly decided.

    Oh dear! Your psychological projection and lame religious apologist contorted thinking is showing!



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  • Alan4discussion #5
    Jun 29, 2017 at 9:36 am

    lame religious apologist contorted thinking

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    In your view giving due consideration to both clauses is “contorted thinking”.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #6
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    In your view giving due consideration to both clauses is “contorted thinking”.

    You don’t appear to have any understanding of what the “free exercise” clause is in the first place. The deal between church and state is that neither will interfere with the other. The state will not tax the church or otherwise tell it how to dispose of its income and the church will not engage in political activities or ask the state to contribute to its income.

    What possible part of that deal could ever mean that a church gets to keep its tax exempt status but then also go begging for handouts to help it attract children to come and play there which is of course when all religions want to get their hands on prospective new supplicants, as young and malleable as possible?

    The concept that just because a church decideds to build a playground that isn’t an intrinsic part of its religious activities and is therefore somehow exempt from the basic separation deal is ludicrous. Churches do all sorts of things to attract people which don’t necessarily involve those people get preached at in that instant moment but in all cases the state agrees to stay out of it and not tax it and the church agrees to not ask for funding for it.

    This Supreme Court decision is a farce but to be expected from a body so outrageously partisan and religiously motivated in 5 of the members.

    Oh, and if you’re an atheist then I’m a Martian.



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  • Stardusty Psyche #6
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    @#5 – No contributions – no benefits! – No free rides for those wearing religion badges, paid for by everyone else!

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
    ~~~~~~~~~~
    In your view giving due consideration to both clauses is “contorted thinking”

    Nope! – Due consideration is fine!

    Pretending that “personal free exercise of religion” is an entitlement to a paid tax-payer subsidy for construction work on a religious establishment, certainly is “contorted thinking”!

    You are FREE to walk in the park! You are not FREE to use contorted thinking to demand to be paid for doing so!



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  • Arkrid Sandwich #7 Jun 30, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    In your view giving due consideration to both clauses is “contorted thinking”.

    You don’t appear to have any understanding of what the “free exercise”
    clause is in the first place.

    Do tell, and I suppose the 7 justices are equally ignorant then?

    “What possible part of that deal could ever mean that a church gets to
    keep its tax exempt status but then also go begging for handouts”

    The part where religious organizations have as much right to access public facilities and benefits as any other non-profit or tax exempt organization.

    “The concept that just because a church decideds to build a playground
    that isn’t an intrinsic part of its religious activities and is
    therefore somehow exempt from the basic separation deal is ludicrous.

    It’s a playground. If government offers assistance to the public for playground building materials it is unconstitutional to exclude religious organizations from receiving those building material benefits, as a clear majority rightly decided.

    Oh, and if you’re an atheist then I’m a Martian.

    Are all those 6 wheeled robots that keep falling out of the sky and whirring about causing much alarm back home?



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  • Stardusty Psyche #9
    Jun 30, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    It’s a playground. If government offers assistance to the public for playground building materials it is unconstitutional to exclude religious organizations from receiving those building material benefits, as a clear majority rightly decided.

    The hint is in the word “public”!
    A religious organisation is a private club which is engaged in activities specifically excluded from participation by the state.

    You seem to be using the “crystal ball” method of researching legal information!



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  • Alan4discussion #10 Jul 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    The hint is in the word “public”!

    It’s a preschool.

    A religious organisation is a private club

    Nonsense. Anybody can walk into church and anybody can bring their kids to preschool.

    I mean, the lefties are always on about how mean the right is. Here I have stumbled into a nest of lefties who are no better.

    It’s a preschool playground, for crying out loud. You know, little kids running around playing, get the picture? You couldn’t be more on the wrong side of this and it is a very good thing 7 justices had the sense to vote as they did.

    I don’t know where you stand on Islam and feminism but you are apparently in the regressive left on this issue.

    The program is designed to assist non profit organizations that operate playgrounds by providing playground building materials. What kind of Grinch could be against that?

    Dawkins is a leader in calling out the regressive left on Islam and feminism, I can only hope that sort of reality based rationality can be extended to the other issues the regressive left has managed to alienate itself from the public on.



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  • Just wondering…

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    How is giving tax breaks to religious organisations not a “law respecting an establishment of religion”?

    Is there some archaic meaning to the words that I don’t get? Tax breaks are based on laws. Those laws favour, allow, or “respect” the establishment of religion (specifically, a religious institution), by making it cheaper, easier, or financially more viable.
    Why should any institution that benefits from public funds (roads and infrastructure, emergency services etc.) be exempt from paying taxes? Why should a church be treated any differently to a business, simply because they hold (or claim to hold) some dotty beliefs?



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  • Stardusty Psyche #11
    Jul 4, 2017 at 12:14 am

    Alan4discussion #10 Jul 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm – The hint is in the word “public”!

    It’s a preschool.

    It’s a preschool indoctrination service run by an indoctrination organisation! The age of the congregation it is recruiting is irrelevant!

    A religious organisation is a private club

    Nonsense. Anybody can walk into church and anybody can bring their kids to preschool.

    Rubbish! Look the word up in a dictionary not a crystal ball of wishful thinking! – Anybody can walk into church to be encouraged to become new members.
    Anybody can bring their kids as prospective church congregation members. (MEMBERSHIP – is a feature of clubs as distinct from PUBLIC services! – understanding this is not rocket science!)
    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/club – 1. A club is an organization of people interested in a particular activity or subject who usually meet on a regular basis. 2.A club is a place where the members of a club meet.

    I mean, the lefties are always on about how mean the right is.

    You don’t seem to have noticed how mean the right is – not even when they set about taking away the healthcare from millions to fund tax-cuts for the extremely wealthy!

    Also you seem to be stuck with the Faux News definition of “Lefties”! (ie. to the left of Genghis Kahn)

    Here I have stumbled into a nest of lefties who are no better.

    As I pointed out on the Montana thread – you seem unwilling or incapable of reading and understanding evidence of how things work in the real world, and keep quoting fantasy notions which are circulated by lying propagandists of the extreme right in the US.

    It’s a preschool playground, for crying out loud. You know, little kids running around playing, get the picture?

    The picture is clear! A religious organisation is providing a child-minding/play service, to facilitate recruiting children as new members, hence this is not a secular service for all which should be supported by the state.
    Would you make the same argument, if instead of “the opium of the masses”, if was a drug den recruiting children as addicts?

    You couldn’t be more on the wrong side of this and it is a very good thing 7 justices had the sense to vote as they did.

    Hurrah for the bigot biases! Who needs to be able to read legal or reference documents! Just keep cheering for the bought in political propagandists and stooges who con the people. – Use a lefty badge fallacy as a lame excuse for a closed mind which refuses to consider actual evidence, dictionary definitions and reasoned arguments!

    I don’t know where you stand on Islam and feminism but you are apparently in the regressive left on this issue.

    I deal with specific issues on their merits, and have criticised and fought abusive forms of both, while defending those reputable citizens who campaign for rights of citizens and equal opportunities, against mindless bigotry and lies.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2017/06/montana-initiative-would-limit-transgender-use-of-bathrooms/#li-comment-223341

    Dawkins is a leader in calling out the regressive left on Islam and feminism,

    Dawkins is a leader in calling out the regressive left on Islam and feminism, and so am I – where their is justification for INFORMED criticism, but to suggest that junk thinking from the lying, extreme right propagandist media, is “INFORMED criticism” – is laughable!

    I can only hope that sort of reality based rationality can be extended to the other issues the regressive left has managed to alienate itself from the public on.

    You would not know what “the regressive left is”! I actually campaign against such people in political and local government organisations.

    You just copy a false “regressive left” badge from the US junk media which sticks this badge on to any issue where the want their uncritical followers to close their minds and unthinkingly dismiss valid arguments.



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  • MadEnglishman #12
    Jul 4, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Is there some archaic meaning to the words that I don’t get?

    No! – But there is a post of mine, awaiting moderation, which explains the use of a dictionary to Stardusty!



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  • MadEnglishman #12 Jul 4, 2017 at 4:47 am

    How is giving tax breaks to religious organisations not a “law
    respecting an establishment of religion”?

    As non-profit public service organizations. Although, giving tax breaks to outright money scams like Scientology and to organizations that accumulate vast assets such as the RCC stretch that principle beyond the breaking point.

    Why should any institution that benefits from public funds (roads and
    infrastructure, emergency services etc.) be exempt from paying taxes?

    Tax exemption for non-profit organizations is a tradition to encourage public service organizations to function.

    Why should a church be treated any differently to a business, simply
    because they hold (or claim to hold) some dotty beliefs?

    They shouldn’t. The rationale is based on their alleged non-profit public service function.



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