Taxpayer-funded repairs of a church-owned preschool playground may sound like a small matter, but to one West Virginia University legal expert, the U. S. Supreme Court decision that allows the funding in Missouri signals a shift in how the high court views separation of church and state.
“Prior to the 1980s, the Supreme Court read the federal Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to mean that states could not fund church-affiliated institutions because of separation of church and state. The Court’s recent decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. vs. Comer effectively requires Missouri to fund church preschools on the same terms as other preschools. The decision could herald a significant shift in the way the court reads the Establishment Clause, pointing toward a rule that religious institutions must always (or nearly always) be included in general state funding programs. If adopted, such a rule would flip the Court’s reading of the Religion Clauses 180 degrees from what it was four decades ago.”
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