Supremes appear to swing on church playgrounds

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The U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court

Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court appeared Wednesday to be swinging toward fairness for kids on playgrounds all across the state of Missouri – in a fight over a state program that refused to provide recycled rubber surfaces for a playground solely because it was owned by a church.

The court heard oral arguments in the case brought against the state over its discriminatory program by Child Learning Center at Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia.

Annette Kiehne, the center’s director, issued a statement after the arguments were held in Washington that she’s grateful the issue is being heard.

“For six-and-a-half years, I’ve had the privilege of working with the boys and girls who attend our school … with the parents who entrust those children to our care … and with the teachers who share my commitment to providing a safe, joyful, rewarding learning experience for these children and their families. We have a wonderful job.”

She explained the bottom line of the fight: “Here is something you learn very quickly, working with children: A kid is a kid. Playground time, for a child, is about play. And play should be safe; safety shouldn’t hinge on whether a child is religious or they are playing on a playground at a religious school or at a secular or public institution.

“The Evidence Bible” is now available and includes, besides the King James version, dozens of articles expanding answers to questions such as why is there suffering, explanations about what Muslims believe and scientific facts written millennia before man discovered them.

“This is about working together to help keep our kids safe when they play – wherever they play. The safety of all children should matter to all of us. Most of the children who come to our preschool are from families who don’t go to our church. And a lot of children who play on our playground are from the surrounding neighborhood; they come with their families in the evening and on weekends.”

She said the goal of the case is to overturn a state restriction that provides grants for such playground surface materials for some playgrounds, but not others, if they happen to be owned by a church.

“We aren’t asking for special treatment. We are just asking to not be treated worse than everyone else. Whether you are a Jewish, Muslim, or Christian kid, or not religious at all, when you fall down on a playground, it hurts just as much at a religious preschool as it does at a non-religious one. We trust and pray that the Supreme Court will consider that carefully, and rule in favor of the safety of children everywhere.”

Bloomberg reported that the church’s position appeared to be earning support from both sides of the political spectrum on the court.

Elena Kagan, a far-left advocate who was appointed by Barack Obama, said, “This is a clear burden on a constitutional right,” pointing out that for such a restriction to survive, the state’s interest must be “extremely high.”

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer also voiced skepticism about the Missouri practice.

And the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, expected to be on the conservative side in most issues, pointed out the state was “moving” the constitutional line by saying it would provide fire and police protection to churches, but would exclude them from participating in the state program providing rubber surfacing for playgrounds.

There are several dozen states that currently bar public dollars from being moved to religious institutions.

The decision eventually is expected to impact the fight that is erupting all across the nation – whether state education funds can go to school voucher programs that include religious schools.

Trinity was one of dozens of applications for funding in 2012 under a program that resurfaces playgrounds with rubber from scrap tires.

The state ranked Trinity fifth on the list of 44 applicants, but refused it permission to participate.

The arguments, and the case, appeared to not be impacted by an announcement just on Friday from Gov. Eric Greitens.

He formally reversed the policy at the center of the case, which denied a church preschool access to a state safety program because of its religious affiliation.

Officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom, who are representing Trinity Lutheran Church, are praising his decision.

“The safety of all children matters, whether they attend a religious school or a nonreligious school,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman.

Cortman asserted the denial on the basis of religious status is a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent.”

“The Evidence Bible” is now available and includes, besides the King James version, dozens of articles expanding answers to questions such as why is there suffering, explanations about what Muslims believe and scientific facts written millennia before man discovered them.

WND reported last year when the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s decision that the state is justified in denying the center access to the program because it is run by a church.

ADF lawyers said the result of that decision was “hostility to religion which violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses.”

www.WND.com

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