What's at Stake
Whether a state may exclude houses of worship from a cash grant program in order to avoid any taxpayer subsidy for religion.
Missouri established a program to provide direct cash grants to qualified nonprofits that wished to purchase scrap tires to resurface their playgrounds that excluded churches and other houses of worship. The lower court held that Missouri’s decision was constitutionally permissible as a means of avoiding any taxpayer subsidy for religion. The ACLU amicus brief argues that Missouri’s decision was, in fact, constitutionally required. The Framers were acutely concerned by the use of taxpayer dollars to support religion and the Establishment Clause therefore prohibits direct cash grants to houses of worship. Here, that concern is especially relevant because of the church’s unwillingness to certify that the refurbished playground would not be used for religious exercises or teaching.
Update (6/26/17): The Supreme Court reversed and ruled in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church.