Attack on Mission Driven Ventures
Currently the United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the matter of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer.
The elements of the case are that a church, Trinity Lutheran Church responded to a request for proposal of a grant with the state of Missouri to have their playground to be enhanced for their children and the children in the community. Their proposal was accepted and they were awarded the grant. While the application of Trinity ranked 5 out of the 44 applicants, they were denied the grant solely because they are religious organization run by a church.
In the Eighth Circuit ruling they cited a case Locke v. Davey however Locke v. Davey is about a case of a person being awarded a scholarship and applying it directly in contrast of the stated purpose of the scholarship. In the case before the court now these circumstances are not even closely similar. (1)
In this case Trinity Lutheran Church was not seek special consideration but they competed on level playing field citing the benefits to not only their interest but the interest and betterment of all of the children in the community. They demonstrated that their playfield was open to all of the community and the 90% of the children in the church didn’t even use the playfield. As stated in the outline of the case in the Alliance Defending Freedom on their case summary of the Client’s stories.(2)
This ruling has raised the issues of the separation of church and state while that have been well argued. The implication is that this ruling could impact future discussions around private and state partnership as well as other forms of mission driven social enterprise endeavors. Ben Hawkins of MBC Pathway stated in his article stated that the state of Missouri was led by their interpretation of the Blane amendment that was amended to the Missouri constitution in the 1800’s and also adopted by 39 other states of the United States. Hawkins states that no money go directly from the public to churches or religious organizations. However, in this case money is not being given to the church. The church competed was given no preference and won the contest. (3)
James Madison said it best “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” Thomas Jefferson wrote “sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” Neither of these the nation’s founding patriots intended to discriminate against churches and sought the betterment of the public good. Emma Green of the Atlantic highlights the constitutional questions at the core of this issue of whether the first amendment of the united states constitution allows exclusion of the religious institutions. (4)
What is at question here is the exclusion of churches can set in motion circumstances that compromise free exercise and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution. While there may a tendency to see this through partisan eyes, it is unfortunate that the United States Congress friend of the court brief leaned toward what may considered a right-wing bend. It should be noted that religious institutions of varying faiths across the board have coalesced to support the position of the Trinity Lutheran.
When a dam breaks, the water goes everywhere. Amy Howe of the SCOTUSBlog wrote that the implication here are more than a playfield. She further illustrates the 2012 case began from the interpretation of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Leading well intended police to wide implementation. (6) The extreme interpretation could mean public services include safety and public health could be withheld from churches. This could cause risk to the general public. in addition to further stifle the emerging economy of social enterprise and sideline the diversity and expansion of the United States Economy.
Although during oral arguments according to Amy Howe seemed to lean towards the Trinity Lutheran this is the first time this court has sat in its full capacity and policy revisions need be on the ready.(5)