Supreme Court Ruling
Announced on June 26, 2017

Policy Summary

On the grounds of free exercise of religion, the Supreme ruled in favor of a Missouri church this week who had been denied state funding to refurbish their playground surface. The case Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, arose after the state of Missouri would not allow state funds to be given to the church’s preschool to resurface the playground with tire chips, citing the state Constitution’s Blaine Amendments. These  amendments forbid the state from financially supporting “any church, sector or denomination of religion.” In a 7 to 2 ruling, it was decided by the justices that the original decision violated the federal constitution because it “expressly discriminates against otherwise eligible recipients by disqualifying them from a public benefit solely because of their religious character.”LEARN MORE


Though this case appears to be purely about a playground, to many it has much broader implications. School choice advocates have already heralded the ruling as a victory as they believe that it opens the door for state funding in the form of education vouchers to be used at any school, including religious ones. However on the opposite end, many see the ruling as a potential threat to the rights guaranteed by the separation of church and state. Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU, expressed disappointment in the decision, stating that “religious freedom should protect unwilling taxpayers from funding church property, not force them to foot the bill.” However, Mach also acknowledged that the ruling is specific to playground resurfacing grants, thus not giving the government “unlimited authority to fund religious activity.” Still, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor see the long-term implications of the decision, calling it a “radical mistake.”  LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

  • American Civil Liberties Union Fight for the separation of church and state and the right to say no to your federal dollars being sent to religious institutions with the ACLU, an organization fighting to protect civil liberties for almost 100 years.
  • Learn more about vouchers with the National Coalition for Public Education. The NCPE has declared that if action is taken to implement a voucher program, they will not be silent. The group’s mission is to defend the public school system.
  • Click here to learn how to contact your state legislators! Speak to them about your feelings in regards to voucher programs.

This brief was compiled by Cindy Stansbury. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact,



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