Which side will he come down on in an important religious liberty case?

By Dahlia Lithwick and Camille Mott / Slate Magazine

This is an abbreviated version of the article. The full piece is available on Slate.com

In his first week on the Supreme Court, newly sworn-in Justice Neil Gorsuch—an avowed defender of religious freedom—will hear oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. The important religious liberty case asks whether the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause compels states to provide public money directly to churches.

Holly Hollman is general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, a faith-based organization with the mission of “defending the first freedom of the First Amendment by protecting both the free exercise of religion and defending against its establishment by government.” On this week’s episode of Amicus, Hollman joined Dahlia Lithwick to discuss the amicus brief she filed in the case, which argues that religious institutions are actually freer if they are barred from accepting government funds. Hollman’s comments have been condensed and edited.

On whether the Supreme Court took this case to rule in favor of the church:

That’s definitely our concern. It is surprising, because to us this case is very similar to Locke v. Davey, which the court decided by a 7–2 margin in 2004. In that case, the court upheld the state of Washington’s decision not to fund the training of ministers via a publicly funded scholarship program. Likewise, here, Missouri has just as valid an interest in protecting against state funding of religion. So yes, we were concerned when they took this case, but I’m hoping that on a closer look, they’ll see that, again, states have a valid and historical interest that does not in any way keep Trinity Lutheran or any other religious group from the free exercise of religion.

On why separation of church and state does not equal religious discrimination:

It is interesting that you would have a Christian church in Missouri arguing that the state is hostile to its interests. …