Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, revisited
1) The phrase "wall of separation" originated not in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, but in those of Roger Williams. Williams was persecuted for his Christianity by other Christians, ultimately being forced to flee Salem or be imprisoned. Imprisoned, that is, for what he thought, and as a consequence of what he said. Williams wrote of the need for secularism by distinguishing between the worlds of the minister and of the magistrate.
2) Jefferson, inspired by Williams as well as by Locke, articulated a precursor to the First Amendment in the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, in which he demonstrated the logic of religious liberty by pointing out that not only was taxation for the support of churches we don't agree with a violation of our personal religious liberty, so too is doing so for the support of churches we do agree with.
3) James Madison, in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessmentsprevented a state bill to collect taxes for the purposes of supporting clergy from passing, on much the same bases as his mentor, Jefferson. Madison illustrated the logic of religious liberty more succinctly than Jefferson, however, by pointing out that any concession for one must be an imposition on another. This tract was a significant contributor to the success of the passage of the First Amendment, which Madison also wrote.
4) All shared the conviction that religious liberty is an unalienable right invested in us in equal proportion by our shared origins in a common "Creator", and that they were as important, but no more important, than any of our other rights, and no one person's right to religious freedom was any more important than another's.
5) Jefferson exemplified in his Letter to the Baptists at Danbury the logic all shared regarding religious exercise, which was that its realm was confined to that of an individual's relationship to god, and that "acts" - that is, an individual's relationship to other individuals - was rightly a civil matter. Williams described these as the realms of the minister and magistrate, and all agreed that neither was to impose on the other.
In the course of ruling that the Establishment Clause allowed New Jersey to extend that public benefit to all its citizens regardless of their religious belief, we explained that a State “cannot hamper its citizens in the free exercise of their own religion. Consequently, it cannot exclude individual Catholics, Lutherans, Mohammedans, Baptists, Jews, Methodists, Non-believers, Presbyterians, or the members of any other faith, because of their faith, or lack of it, from receiving the benefits of public welfare legislation.”
The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups, and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State."
Davey was not denied a scholarship because of who he was; he was denied a scholarship be- cause of what he proposed to do—use the funds to prepare for the ministry. Here there is no question that Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is—a church.
The claimant in Locke sought funding for an “essentially religious endeavor . . . akin to a religious calling as well as an academic pursuit,” and opposition to such funding “to support church leaders” lay at the historic core of the Religion Clauses. Id., at 721–722. Here nothing of the sort can be said about a program to use recycled tires to resurface playgrounds.
to provide a solid, Christian education developed with standards that drive instruction so that every child can be reached with an effective education – one that centers on the LCMS faith. The Common Core State Standards may be considered a tool that would allow LCMS schools to more fully prepare its students for service and witness to Christ and the world.
In its application, the Center disclosed its status as a ministry of Trinity Lutheran Church and specified that the Center’s mission was “to provide a safe, clean, and attractive school facility in conjunction with an educational program structured to allow a child to grow spiritually, physically, socially, and cognitively.”
Washington’s selective funding program was not comparable to the free exercise violations found in the “Lukumi line of cases,” including those striking down laws requiring individuals to “choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit.” Id., at 720– 721. At the outset, then, the Court made clear that Locke was not like the case now before us.
Washington’s restriction on the use of its scholarship funds was different. According to the Court, the State had “merely chosen not to fund a distinct category of instruction.” Id., at 721.
The Court in Locke also stated that Washington’s choice was in keeping with the State’s antiestablishment interest in not using taxpayer funds to pay for the training of clergy; in fact, the Court could “think of few areas in which a State’s antiestablishment interests come more into play.” Id., at 722. The claimant in Locke sought funding for an “essentially religious endeavor . . . akin to a religious calling as well as an academic pursuit,” and opposition to such funding “to support church leaders” lay at the historic core of the Religion Clauses. Id., at 721–722. Here nothing of the sort can be said about a program to use recycled tires to resurface playgrounds.
The Department’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status.