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Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia V. Pauley

By:   •  October 16, 2018  •  Term Paper  •  3,416 Words (14 Pages)  •  93 Views

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Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley, No. 15-57


Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley challenges the circumstances in which the Church and the State may interact. The United States has made it its duty to distinguish between the two entities due to the fact that the US exercises the right to freedom of religion. However, over the past century, this separation allows room for the discrimination against the church. The Church argues the playground tire grant administered by The Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Solid Waste Management Program violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution. The Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clause prohibits government from discriminating against religion and its places of worship. There is no case among this Court’s precedents directly holding that the federal and state governments cannot discriminate against a church. The flow of public funds is arguably a message of endorsement. Financial aid from government comes off as as showing preference to a particular church/religion. Thus religion organization have no right to receive discretionary government funding.

Facts of the Case in Question

Trinity Lutheran Church applied for the Missouri's Scrap Tire Grant Program. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP) administers grant programs in order to promote the recycling of playground scrap tire surface material. The use of the materials are to build parks. Trinity wanted to build a park for the use of the children who are enrolled in their daycare program. The daycare program was initially founded by a non-profit and in 1985 merged with the Trinity Church. Although the day care involves religious activities in its daily schedules, there is an open-admissions policy. Trinity applies for the playground tire grant and was denied due to Article I, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution states, “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.”

Trinity sued and argued that the denial of its application violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. Trinity filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on January 25, 2013.

The district court denied the motions, relying on our decision in Locke, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), as a precedent. In Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), we held that excluding churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program did not violate the Free Exercise Clause or the Equal Protection Clause. The district court rejected Trinity’s motion about the free exercise due to the fact that Scrap Tire Program was a direct payment to a faith-based institution that raised “anti establishment concerns” that are comparable in what was outlined in the Court in Locke, 540 U.S. 712 (2004),. The District Court also cited Locke, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), in their regards of dismissing the Equal Protection Clause- “Trinity’s failure “to allege a violation of the Free Exercise Clause” mean that its “Equal Protection claim must also be dismissed.”

Trinity appealed the District Court’s decision to the Eighth Circuit. The eighth Circuit of appeals affirmed. In their decision, the panel split, as they viewed Trinity’s petition as an attack on Missouri’s Constitution. The Eighth Circuit also let the decision made in Locke, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), carry their decisions, arguing that it was justified because there was no “break in the link” between state funds and religion. The Eighth Circuit felt caution regarding the funding of secular institutions regardless of their use. They also cited Locke, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), regarding Equal Protection Clause.

Historical Background

The history of separation of church and state sets back all the way to the foundation of the Constitution. America’s Founding Fathers strongly believed in a clear separation between church and state. They gave us a Constitution that forbids government to support or oppose religion, leaving Americans free to follow their own consciences when it comes to matters of faith. In the words of the First Amendment, government shall make “no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”. Now churches are not required to pay taxes but expected to raise funds through voluntary means. In this way, before cases like Trinity Lutheran v. Pauley, the government doesn’t feel obligated to offer grants to religious entities. In many ways, the separation was self-explanatory in it’s broad but direct approach to these separate bodies. Thomas Jefferson coined the term “wall of separation between Church and State” and was also supported by James Madison. The latter term is active to understanding in how these two entities interact both in law and day by day routines.

The first time the separation was challenged was in 1879 with Reynolds v. United States, when George Reynolds, a Mormon residing in the Utah region, was charged with polygamy, charged under under anti-bigamy provision of the Morrill Act. Under the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “the Mormon religion at that time supported plural marriages; polygamy was even seen as a religious obligation of Mormon men under certain circumstances.” Arguing the federal law forbidding polygamy was unconstitutional because it denied his right to the free exercise of his religion. Our court has established that the First Amendment protected the belief of religion and there is no argument in this area. However, the Constitution does not protect against religious practices that are considered criminal. Human sacrifices, Sati, and other religious practices are undeniable criminal. Therefore, bigamy will fall under this scrutiny. Reynolds was then appealed, tried, convicted, and carried the notion that the Court will not relinquish our laws or Constitution for religious entities or their practices. Reynolds v. Sims is often criticized as being too narrow and specific to that facts of the case. However, for our purposes, it is essential to note in our understanding of the case.

The Supreme Court made its second decision regarding its long debate in 1899, with Bradfield v. Roberts. In this case, Congress appropriated funds to a church-run hospital in the District of Columbia to be used for the care of veterans. The Court held that the appropriation did not violate the Establishment Clause because the hospital was itself created by an act of Congress. It was immaterial, the Court found, that the hospital was staffed by members of the Catholic Church because their authority was circumscribed by the act of Congress. The purpose of establishing the hospital was not sectarian; rather, it was to provide care to the sick and disabled persons in the District of Columbia. Because they had a secular purpose, the statutes that created the hospital and provided for its funding did not violate the Establishment Clause.

An accompanying case, challenging the same critique of public funds to religious entities was Everson v. Board of Education 330 U.S. 1 (1947). New Jersey authorized the Department of Education to fund the costs of transportation, to and from school. This also covered private institutions that were mostly religious schools. This reimbursement set into question the First amendment applied through the Fourteenth Amendment. “The case was brought by a New Jersey taxpayer against a tax funded school district that provided reimbursement to parents of both public and private schooled people taking the public transportation system to school.”. The case ruled in favor of the Board of Education, as they found the reimbursement did not violate the law in question. Non-discretionary programs such as these should not be discriminatory as these are considered general aids. Justice Hugo Black argues ruled that “the state bill was constitutionally permissible because the reimbursements were offered to all students regardless of religion and because the payments were made to parents and not any religious institution.”

Both the petitioner and the defendant rely on Locke v. Davey. In the state Washington, they administered the Promise Scholarship Program. This program assists academically gifted students with higher education finances. Joshua Davey, the petitioner, was very disappointed when he realized that the Promise Scholarship Program did not cover the studies of “devotional theology”, in its efforts to pursue a pastoral ministries major at a private Christian college. He filed a lawsuit against the state official of the Promise Scholarship Program arguing that the Washington's disembarkment of religious education violated his rights under the Free Exercise Clause. The statute was upheld. The Court held that there was nothing "inherently constitutionally suspect" in the denial of funding for vocational religious instruction. Even if there were, Washington had a "substantial state interest" in not funding "devotional degrees. In a 7-2 decision, the majority found that Washington state's constitutional prohibition against providing money for religion did not interfere with the federal free-exercise rights of individuals. Chief Justice Rehnquist's majority opinion used the concept of “play in the joints” between state and federal constitutional protections as a rationale. In response, Justice Scalia's dissent lambasted the majority for being unprincipled and ignoring precedent against targeted discrimination.



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