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Media call Tuesday with ADF attorney arguing for Missouri church at US Supreme Court

Call for media will offer preview of oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer

Monday, Apr 17, 2017
Audio:  Media briefing (2017-04-18)

WHO: ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman and ADF Legal Counsel Kerri Kupec
WHAT: Media call previewing oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer
WHEN: Tuesday, April 18, at 1:30 p.m. EDT
WHERE: Online or by phone at (425) 440-5100, PIN 356719#

WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman will participate in a media call Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. EDT to preview his oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in what has been called “the term’s remaining marquee case,” Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer. ADF Legal Counsel and Director of Communications Kerri Kupec will moderate the call.

ADF is defending the long-held First Amendment principle that the government cannot exclude religious organizations from government programs that provide purely nonreligious benefits—in this case, a partial reimbursement grant for rubberized surface material from recycled tires that increases safety for children on a preschool playground that the entire community uses.

“The government should treat children’s safety at religious schools the same as they do at nonreligious schools,” said Cortman. “The government isn’t being neutral when it treats religious organizations worse than everyone else. Equal treatment of a religious organization in a program that provides only secular benefits isn’t a government endorsement of religion, but unequal treatment that singles out a preschool for exclusion simply because a church runs the school is clearly unconstitutional.”

ADF attorneys represent the Missouri church that runs Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center, which the state excluded from a program that provides the partial reimbursement grants. Although the state highly ranked the center as qualified for the program (fifth out of 44 nonprofit applicants), it denied the center’s application solely because a church runs the preschool. Children in the community also use the playground after hours and on the weekends, and more than 90 percent of the children who attend the preschool do not attend the church.

The outcome of the case is critical because, under the state’s logic, the government could deny churches access to any nonreligious public benefit, such as fire services or water treatment.

In 2015, Cortman argued before the high court in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, a free speech case in which the justices ruled 9-0 in favor of a pastor and church that ADF represented.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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