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USCCB files brief in Missouri playground case

April 26, 2016

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Missouri Catholic Conference have joined with other organizations in calling upon the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s decision upholding the State of Missouri’s denial of a grant on the basis of the applicant’s religious affiliation.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the case in fall 2016.

The Trinity Lutheran Church Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri, applied for a state grant for an improved playground surface, and the application was scored as fifth among 44 applicants. Nonetheless, the application was rejected on the grounds of religious affiliation.

In their joint brief, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Missouri Catholic Conference, that National Catholic Educational Association, the Salvation Army National Corporation, and the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America stated:

Missouri's religious discrimination not only contravenes the First Amendment, it is profoundly demeaning to people of faith.

Official discrimination based on religion is no less invidious or stigmatizing than discrimination based on other protected traits. It sends a message that religious people and their institutions are second-class citizens who deserve special disabilities and are not entitled to participate on equal terms in government programs.

Allowing illusory Establishment Clause concerns to trump the prohibition on religious discrimination would invite state officials to invoke those concerns as a pretext for penalizing religious groups whose beliefs or practices diverge from government-prescribed orthodoxy.

 
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