This morning, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty responded to the arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. The organization filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, explaining how Missouri’s constitutional ban on state funding of religion protects religion.
Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee and author of the brief, gave the following remarks to reporters outside the Court:
“Missouri has drawn the right line to protect against the government funding of religious exercise.
The Missouri constitution prohibits state aid to churches. That is a protection for religious liberty that stems from the lessons of history. Baptists and other religious dissenters in colonial America fought to ensure that the coercive power of the government was not used to force taxpayers to pay for churches. The result has been a rich flowering of religion and religious institutions, funded by voluntary gifts and offerings.
Though there are many ways that religion and government cooperate, it is a fundamental principle of religious liberty in this country that the government does not fund religious exercise. Churches are by definition expressions of religion — organized for religious exercise. That’s why churches are, and should be, given special treatment. It is a necessary protection for religious liberty, not a mark of hostility or discrimination against religion.
Religion has a special place in our constitutional tradition, a place that is protected by separating the institutions of religion and government. The U.S. Supreme Court has never upheld direct government grants to churches, much less required a state to provide such funding.
This case is about whether the state has to pay for the property improvements of a church, despite nearly 200 years of precedent and many practical considerations that argue otherwise.”
The Baptist Joint Committee’s brief in the case and additional resources are available at BJConline.org/TrinityLutheran.
Based in Washington, D.C., the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is an 81-year-old religiously based organization working to defend religious freedom for all people and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition.
Learn more at BJConline.org.