April 21, 2016
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt led a coalition of 18 state attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the exclusion of a preschool-daycare from a state-authorized environmental safety program in Missouri simply because of its religious affiliation. The Court will decide whether a state can bar a religious organization from a generally available state benefit program solely because it is religious. The brief asks the Court to clarify that there are reasonable limits to the ability of governments to exclude religious organizations from state government programs.
Trinity Lutheran Church has a playground used by its daycare, preschool and local neighborhood children. The church applied for a financial grant from a Missouri program that reimburses institutions that resurface their playgrounds with recycled scrap tires. The program, designed to protect children and reduce tire landfills, declared the daycare and preschool categorically ineligible solely because they are part of a church. The brief explains that similar to a public school, city park or secular daycare, Trinity Lutheran’s religious status is irrelevant to the program’s goal of protecting children and mitigating the environmental harm of scrap tires. Accordingly, Missouri had no lawful reason to reject the church from the program.
“The Supreme Court needs to make clear that there is a commonsense limit to the government’s ability to exclude religious organizations from otherwise generally available safety and health programs,” said Laxalt. “The benefit that the church and the children would have received in this case had nothing to do with endorsing or furthering any religious beliefs. If Missouri is right, its local fire department couldn’t respond to a three-alarm fire at a church because it would somehow be ‘supporting’ religion. This brief encourages the Supreme Court to clarify when excluding just the religious becomes impermissible discrimination under the Constitution.”
Nevada is joined by the following states in the filing of this brief: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The filed brief is attached.