News Release: Supreme Court Decision in Favor of Trinity Will ‘Widen the Space for Conversation’

Empty swing in a children's playground, with a lone child in the background

June 26, 2017

(Lansing, Mich.) — This morning the United States Supreme Court ruled 7–2 in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer that the State of Missouri’s policy to prevent state grant funding for playground equipment at a Lutheran preschool was, in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, “odious to our Constitution.” Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) strongly supports the majority opinion and offered the following comments as the decision may relate to a case moving through the Michigan courts:

“The Court handed down a welcome decision today striking an inherently discriminatory practice that punished a school simply because of its religious mission,” said Paul A. Long, MCC President and CEO. “The 7–2 ruling will likely widen the space for conversation and public policies that treat all students equally, regardless of where they receive their education. Together with legal counsel, Michigan Catholic Conference will evaluate today’s ruling in light of a lawsuit working through state courts that opposes a state appropriation to reimburse nonpublic schools for complying with mandatory, non-curriculum related health and safety regulations. Opponents of the appropriation are standing behind Article 8, Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution, also known as a ‘Blaine Amendment,’ which has roots in 19th Century anti-Catholic bigotry and today is preventing educational opportunities primarily for low-income and minority students.”

Through the current and previous state budget cycles, Michigan Catholic Conference has supported a $2.5 million appropriation to reimburse nonpublic schools for complying with state health and safety mandates such as fire and tornado drills, attendance recordkeeping, vaccination records, and criminal background checks. While a lawsuit has been filed against the State appropriation, MCC has petitioned both the Court of Claims and the State Court of Appeals to enter the case as an intervening defendant. Neither court has yet to rule on the merits of this specific case.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

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