This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer

This is case before the Supreme Court where Trinity Lutheran has a playground which needed renovation and submitted a grant proposal. They were ranked number five on the list but lost out because Missouri has a constitutional provision barring religious schools from receiving government funds. Very recently, the state government said it would reconsider because of this case, however that should simply spur the lowest ranking grantees to file suit alleging violation of the state constitution and its Blaine Amendment. Without repealing this provision, there is still a case to be heard, so the SCOTUS should not block it.

The new Justice, Neil Gorsuch has in the past ruled for more freedom for religious organizations, but this will not be a 5-4 case. Five of the justices, including some of the liberals, are Catholic, which may or may not be important because the Blaine Amendments were designed not to oppose all religious funding but primarily funding for Catholic (and Hebrew) schools.

This is a huge issue. If Trinity Lutheran wins the day and Blaine Amendments are thrown out, every Catholic grade school and high school will, at minimum, be able to apply for funding as a normal school (some already do so as Charter Schools) and at best states will be ordered to fund them as if they were public schools. Cases like this are not decided by one vote. The Court likes to form a consensus with as many Justices as possible. Challenging the Blaine Amendment has been on a lot of to do lists for a very long time. It is a bit surprising that a case involving Catholic Schools did not get here first, but unless they try to dumb down the decision, it is likely to be a landmark case.
Many Catholic schools have closed down or have raised there tuition so much that only upper class (Republican pro-life) Catholics could send their children there. This will stop that trend and reverse it, especially public funding brings unionization to Catholic school faculty. Things will get interesting, probably more so than Secretary DeVos realizes. We will start to see by June, but this will take years to shake out.

The interesting question is how to pay for making all these schools taxpayer funded?  There are two options, raising income rates or raising property taxes, preferably installing a higher rate for higher value homes - either one at the same income levels of those people who will get the new subsidy who now pay tuition for sectarian schools.  Of course, when you throw in the tax increase, suddenly the right wing starts talking personal responsibility again.


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