Five of those seven justices clarified that the decision applies only to playground resurfacing.
The discrimination against religious exercise in this case was Missouri's refusal to allow Trinity Lutheran "solely because it is a church" to compete with secular organizations for a grant, Roberts wrote.
Despite the annotation, supporters of school choice saw the case as a victory that could possibly pave the way for vouchers to be used at religious schools.
During oral arguments, several justices appeared to be swinging toward the church. The conservative Institute for Justice said 1.3 million students in school-choice programs could be affected. This triggers the highest level of scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause, and the majority concluded that the state's interest in achieving greater church-state separation than (it says) is required by the First Amendment is not sufficiently compelling to warrant the resultant limitation on Free Exercise.
DeVos says the ruling makes clear that "programs created to help students will no longer be discriminated against by the government based exclusively on religious affiliation".
The church, Trinity Lutheran, had said it was being illegally excluded because it was religiously affiliated, and that its right to practice its religion was impeded. History shows that the Religion Clauses separate the public treasury from religious coffers as one measure to secure the kind of freedom of conscience that benefits both religion and government.
Missouri launched an initiative in 2012 to encourage schools to use recycled tires to produce safer playground surfaces, but the program triggered a major religious liberty fight. The court could act on that case as soon as Tuesday. The framers feared that providing public money to religious institutions would both sow religious conflicts within society and promote state meddling with religious institutions.
The Trinity case could potentially be one of the most significant SCOTUS decisions of the year, setting the tone for generations of legislation about the separation between church and state on the state level, and potentially paving the way for more radical education reform, like the use of state vouchers for religious schools.In a footnote, Roberts asserted that "this case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing". Thomas filed a concurring opinion, joined by Gorsuch, and Gorsuch filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas. Sotomayor writes, "Religion was best served when sects reached out on the basis of their tenets alone, unsullied by outside forces, allowing adherents to come to their faith voluntarily".
Neither do I see why the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause should care.
Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers said the decision amounted to "hostility to religion, which violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses".
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says it "threatens to open the door to more taxpayer support for religion".
The state ranked Trinity fifth on the list of 44 applicants, but refused it permission to participate. Finally, Gorsuch writes that to the extent some might read footnote 3 applies "only: with "playground resurfacing" cases, or only those with some association with children's health and safety or health, or perhaps some other social good we find sufficiently worthy..." he can not join in the footnote.
"The general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise whether on the playground or anywhere else", Gorsuch said.
Still, he said, "we're really happy with the decision". Justice Sonia Sotomayor read parts of her blistering dissent (joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg) from the bench.
At issue is whether the state has a right to deny public funds to a religious entity when the disbursement is for a secular goal. "The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church", she wrote.