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Supreme Court

Public Benefit Programs Available to Churches

Excluding church from playground funding solely based on its religion violates First Amendment, Court says.

Public Benefit Programs Available to Churches

In a historic ruling (Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, 2017 WL 2722410), the United States Supreme Court has ruled that a state program providing free playground surfacing to any school or preschool—except churches or other religious organizations—violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

The Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center is a preschool and daycare center open throughout the year. Established as a nonprofit organization in 1980, the center merged with Trinity Lutheran Church in 1985 and operates under its auspices on church property. The center admits students of any religion, and enrollment stands at about 90 children ranging from ages two to five.

The center includes a playground that is equipped with the basic playground essentials: slides, swings, jungle gyms, monkey bars, and sandboxes. Almost the entire surface beneath ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • July 5, 2017

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