By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer
On Wednesday, April 19, the Supreme Court—fully seated with nine Justices including Justice Gorsuch—will hear oral argument in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley. With twenty-seven groups filing in support of Trinity Lutheran and six filing in support of the Pauley, the Director of Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources, this case is widely considered the most significant of the term. At issue is whether the First Amendment allows states to deny grants simply because the applicant is affiliated with a church.
The fight takes place at the most unexpected locations: a preschool playground. Anyone with kids knows how horrible it is to cut short a great romp around the jungle gym due to a skinned knee, chin, elbow, etc. Those nice, cushiony playgrounds are a whole lot more agreeable for kids and parents than the pea gravel playgrounds most of us grew up around. The state of Missouri knows this too and set up a program awarding grants to nonprofit organizations to purchase playground surfacing materials made from recycled tires. Its “Scrap Tire Grant Program,” in addition to being good for the environment, promotes the safety of children at play.