The Supreme Court heardoral arguments on Tuesday in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, a religious freedom case that could have big implications for contraception access.
The case involves a church preschool that was denied a grant from the state of Missouri to use recycled tires for the surface of itsnew playground on the groundsthat there should be a separation between church and state.Based on this mornings arguments, speculation is already emerging that the Court could likely side with the plaintiff, Trinity Lutheran Church a ruling that experts say could create aslippery slope for womens health.
Though the preschools application ranked fifth out ofa total of 54 applications received by the state of Missouri for itsScrap Tire Program, the state ultimately declined to award the church a grant to use recycled tires for the playground because doing so would have violated a provision of Missouris Constitution. The Missouri Constitution statesthat no money shall be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.
And its this provision that kept the Trinity Lutheran preschool from getting itsgrant and new playground.
The church went on to legally challenge the decision, and both the district and appellate courts upheld the states decision to deny Trinity Lutheran the grant money. Now the church has argued before the Supreme Court that its exclusion from eligibility for the recycled tire grant violates the free-exercise and free-protection clauses of the U.S. constitution.
What does this have to do with birth control? Possibly a whole lot.
As Amy Matsui, senior counsel and director of government relations at the National Womens Law Center, explained to Yahoo Beauty following Neil Gorsuchs confirmation by the Senate, If the court allows the church to receive public funds despite Missouris Constitution, it opens the door to public funds going without any safeguards to groups that might discriminate.
And that includes religious institutions or schools that could discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and religion.
We know there have been religious employers who have fired employees for using birth control, for becoming pregnant without being married, for using assisted reproductive technologies to achieve pregnancy. If an institution that is engaged in discriminatory practices can receive public funds, we have serious concerns if there are not any safeguards or protections. Its a slippery slope, Matsui says.
Last week, before the case made its way to the Supreme Court, the Missouri governors office announced a change in the policy at the heart of this case, allowing for state funds to religious groups via grants that promote recycling, which led to speculation that the case would be thrown out. However, today SCOTUS Blog said that was not the case.
While newly appointed Justice Gorsuch doesnt have much of a judicial record on issues pertaining to womens reproductive health, he is known for his record of prioritizing businesses and private organizations claims to religious freedom over claims of discrimination.
Gorsuch shakes hands with Kennedy after being sworn as his wife, Louise Gorsuch, and President Trump look on. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
One of his most notable rulings was when the Hobby Lobby case appeared before the 10th District Court of Appeals while he sat on that bench. In that case, Hobby Lobby asked that the company be granted the same kind of religious-freedom protections as an individual and that such protectionswould allow the company to opt out of adhering to the Affordable Care Acts mandate regarding contraception coverage in all health plans by not offering this to their employees through their insurance benefits.
Gorsuch wrote in his opinion on the Hobby Lobby case that the ACAs mandate, and its requirement that all plans cover all forms of FDA-approved contraception, forced corporations such as Hobby Lobby to violate their religious faith by lending an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct [that] their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.
Manywomens health advocates continue to point outthat a look at the Hobby Lobby case raisesserious concerns overwhat Gorsuch might mean for contraception access, specifically for reasons that are again raised in the Trinity Lutheran case. In Hobby Lobby, Gorsuch ruled in favor of the idea that corporations are people and expressed his belief that bosses should be able to impede their employees access to birth control.
His fervor for protecting entities claims to religious freedom likely means that he would side with Trinity Lutherans claims a move that, if agreed upon by the majority, could also mean that that companies could not only freely practice discrimination in the name of religion but also receive taxpayer dollars for doing so.
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SCOTUS Just Heard a Church Playground Case That Could Affect Birth Control Access – Yahoo Health
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