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Religious freedom supporters applaud decision siding with Lutheran school


People gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26 in Washington. The high court was issuing its last decisions in its current term, which ends June 30. Two of the most-awaited decisions involved the Trump administration's travel ban and the suit by a Missouri Lutheran preschool denied a state grant for creating a safer playground. (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Religious liberty won June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot discriminate against religious institutions in the distribution of state funds for nonreligious activities.

The high court, in a 7-2 ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, sided with the school. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty, said the decision was a "landmark victory for religious freedom."

"The Supreme Court rightly recognized that people of faith should not be discriminated against when it comes to government programs that should be made available to all," Archbishop Lori said in a statement.

The Supreme Court reversed what the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided back in 2015, when it sided with the state of Missouri.

The case involves Trinity Lutheran Church's preschool, which, after applying for a Missouri state grant that provided schools with reimbursements for resurfacing playgrounds with recycled tire pieces, was denied the grant solely on the grounds that the property was owned by a church.

"The court held that Missouri's exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from the grant making process at stake here violated the Free Exercise Clause," said Hillary Byrnes, an assistant general counsel at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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