In a landmark and highly controversial ruling by the Supreme Court on Monday, the First Amendment has now taken a back seat to extracting wealth from the citizens — to fund the church.
The Supreme Court has just ruled that churches have a right to seek state money to fund their projects. Thomas Jefferson’s famous phrase noting the separation of church and state is no more.
By a 7-2 vote, the justices sided with Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, who took their case to the Supreme Court after being denied funding to put a soft surface on their preschool playground.
Demanding a right to taxpayer money, the church fought the state law which actually followed the first amendment of the Constitution and denied funding to churches.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources rejected funding for the church project, citing their state constitution, which says, “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.”
Ironically, the church claimed that the padding for their playground, which would be used for the church goers and their children, was “not religious” and “wholly secular.”
According to the AP, Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court that the state violated the First Amendment by denying a public benefit to an otherwise eligible recipient solely on account of its religious status. He called it “odious to our Constitution” to exclude the church from the grant program, even though the consequences are only “a few extra scraped knees.”
However, the church should be denied access to public funds based “solely on account of its religious status.” When taxpayers are forced to fund an establishment of religion — in any manner (including playground padding) — this is a direct violation of the first Amendment.
Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were in dissent and strongly noted how this ruling weakens the nation’s longstanding commitment to separation of church and state.
“This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government — that is, between church and state,” she said, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as reported by the AP. “The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church.”
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
When Jefferson coined the term separation of church and state, he explicitly noted the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
“I contemplate with 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,” wrote Jefferson as he addressed the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, and later published in a Massachusetts newspaper.
To be clear, it was the church who asked for this ‘wall’ between them and the state as religious freedom was tantamount to any relationship or perks with the state.
What this ruling illustrates is the clear shift in society from self-reliance to government dependency. Americans have already turned to the state for health care, education, income, retirement, and security — and now, we can add religion to the list.