On Monday, the justices ruled that churches could not be excluded from a state grant program for playground surfaces that was open to other charitable organizations. "Applying that basic principle, this Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit exclusively on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion that can be justified only by a state interest 'of the highest order, '" he said. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government-that is, between church and state.
Rather the justices decided the Missouri case by narrowly focusing on the fact that the preschool was turned down for a state grant for rubberizing its playground exclusively because it was run by a church.
Taxpayers For Public Education, which fought the Douglas County vouchers, said Tuesday the prohibition of public money to pay for private religious education is not in any way "bigoted".
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court's majority, said "the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, exclusively because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and can not stand". He pointed to a footnote in Chief Justice John Roberts' decision that noted the court was focusing on "express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing", as opposed to the broader use of taxpayer-backed funds by religious groups. That seemed to limit the ruling's impact.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch concurred separately.
Neither was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote a passionate dissent in which she was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The last pages of the dissent are full of concerns about how the court has undermined secular government; dismantled, not strengthened, religious freedom; and led "to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment". The rejection was based on a Missouri constitutional provision which, like those in some 36 other states, bars state aid to religious schools. But the justices have already signaled to lower courts that they should reconsider previous rulings in light of the Missouri case.
Phillips argues he turned away Charlie Craig and David Mullins not because they are gay, but because their wedding violated his religious belief.
Hollman said state "no aid" provisions which add safeguards to the U.S. Constitution to prevent the establishment of religion "reflect the hard-fought battles of Baptists and other religious dissenters that abolished government controls over religion and secured church autonomy".
"Believers, like all people, want equality, and that's what this court decision has given us today - is that when government creates a program, religious people can't be told to stay outside, that we're second-class citizens", Michael Farris with the Alliance Defending Freedom told CBN News.
"The Arkansas Supreme Court's decision, we conclude, denied married same-sex couples access to the 'constellation of benefits that the state has linked to marriage, '" the court said Friday. School-choice and religious-liberty advocates, emboldened by President Donald Trump's appointment of Gorsuch, are eager to get a school vouchers case before the court. "And that's a distinction I believe most of the justices see as important".