It was reported a few days ago that newly sworn-in Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch would be hearing his first high-profile case. A church had filed suit against the state of Missouri for what the church called unconstitutional discrimination against a religious school. The case involved Missouri funding a number of schools for the purchase of grounds up tires for safer play grounds, however, the church’s school was denied the funding because the state has a law forbidding such funding from going to religious schools.
A majority on the Supreme Court appeared to offer support Wednesday for a church excluded from a publicly funded aid program, during the hearing for what was considered Justice Neil Gorsuch’s first high-profile case.
At issue is a double dose of contentious issues: religious freedom and taxpayer funding. It is one of the most closely watched cases of the term, and could portend a series of upcoming church-state disputes facing the justices.
The justices are considering whether Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., should be eligible for state funds. The church sued after being denied funding to improve the surface of a playground used by its preschool, by replacing gravel with softer, recycled synthetic rubber.
During arguments before the high court, the justices, at least some of them, appeared to be sympathetic to the church’s case. In past cases, Gorsuch supported more religious liberty than some of the liberal justices ever would. He had sided with Hobby Lobby in their lawsuit challenging the contraceptive mandate that was part of Obamacare. His vote on this current case could give an indication of just how he might rule on many future cases.