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August 7 2017

Legal Brief: Trinity Lutheran: The Blockbuster in a Quiet Supreme Court Term

by Erin Hawley

Trinity Lutheran: The Blockbuster in a Quiet Supreme Court Term

The Supreme Court has much been in the news this past year. The unexpected death of legal titan Justice Antonin Scalia, a hard-fought Presidential campaign with the Supreme Court front and center, and the con rmation of Neil Gorsuch as the 113th Justice of the United States Supreme Court all made for a blockbuster year.

Ironically, one consequence of the Supreme Court being down a Justice was a quiet term. Pundits predicted that the Court would be hesitant to take “hot button” cases—cases that might result in a 4-4 split. They were correct in so far as the Supreme Court achieved a high degree of consensus*. Nearly 60 percent of the Court’s cases were decided by a unanimous court. A whopping 86 percent of cases were decided by a lop-sided majority of 7 or more votes.

"The question in the case was whether the State of Missouri could discriminate against the preschool in the award of playground safety grants simoly because it was religious.” 

In a relatively uncontroversial batch of cases, one stands out: Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. This case pitted a preschool—Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center—against the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. And it involved the most fundamental of constitutional rights—the right to religious freedom. The question in the case was whether the State of Missouri could discriminate against the preschool in the award of playground safety grants simply because it was religious. A 7-2 Supreme Court majority answered that question with a resounding no. The reasoning of Trinity Lutheran implicates matters far beyond playgrounds.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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