WASHINGTON (Jan. 26, 2016) — The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Columbia, Mo., parochial school's appeal involving its rejected application for a state grant to install recycled rubber playground surfacing.
The question presented in the case, according to the Supreme Court's synopsis, is whether the exclusion of churches from a neutral and secular aid program violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution when the Establishment Clause does not apply. The court agreed Jan. 15 to hear the case.
In January 2012, Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center applied to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for one of the state's Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material grants to replace its pea gravel playground surface with surfacing made of recycled scrap tires.
DNR, however, rejected Trinity Lutheran's grant application on the grounds that giving the school that grant constituted government funding of religion, which the Missouri Constitution specifically prohibits.
In rejecting Trinity Lutheran's suit, the Western Missouri district court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals applied Locke v. Davey, a 2004 Supreme Court decision in which the high court upheld the State of Washington's decision not to grant scholarship money to a theology student.