Friday, February 7, 2014

Christian pre-school excluded from state scrap tire program files appeal

State claimed religious daycare centers can’t participate,
then admits it has approved such centers on 15 other occasions

Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom have appealed a ruling that held Missouri officials were within their rights to deny a Christian pre-school access to a state program because it was a religious school.
Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center in Columbia sought a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Management Program to participate in the 2012 Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grant Program. The center wished to remove and replace a large portion of the pea gravel surfacing on its playgrounds with a safer, recycled, pour-in-place rubberized product.

Because the program has a limited amount of money to distribute, the department ranks the applications to determine which applicants will receive grants. Trinity Lutheran scored fifth out of 44 applicants, and the department provided grants to 14 projects in 2012. Nonetheless, the department disqualified Trinity Lutheran solely because it is operated by Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia.
Despite the fact that the department recently admitted that it allowed religious pre-schools to participate on at least 15 occasions, it continues to defend its denial of Trinity Lutheran’s application by pointing to a section of the state constitution that prohibits government funding of religion. ADF attorneys explain, however, that providing grant monies for the purpose of purchasing recycled tires for a playground is clearly not furthering religious purposes.

“That same section of the state constitution also states that ‘no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship,’” said Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The state cannot single out this pre-school for exclusion when it has allowed other religious daycare centers to participate in the program in the past.”


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