WASHINGTON—The Missouri Department of Natural Resources violated the rights of a Lutheran church school when it denied a grant for the church to install a rubber playground surface at the school, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 7-2 in a 7-2 decision.
In 2012, the Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center in Columbia, Mo., applied to the DNR for a grant to replace pea gravel playground surfacing at the school with a pour-in-place rubber surface, under Missouri's Scrap Tire Program.
However, the agency denied the church's application, saying it violated the state constitution's rule against providing direct financial assistance to a church.
"Although the center ranked fifth out of the 44 applicants, it did not receive a grant because it is a church," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the court.
"The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, simply because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution…and cannot stand," Roberts wrote.