CFI Tells Supreme Court: Church Facilities Must Not Be Funded By Taxpayer Dollars

For Immediate Release: July 6, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


The Center for Inquiry yesterday joined with our friends and allies to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court yesterday in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley. The brief can be found here.

Trinity Lutheran represents the latest attempt by the religious right to undercut the protections of the First Amendment, and, in particular, the Establishment Clause. Missouri, the defendants in the case, operate a program to assist non-profit groups to install safe surfaces for children’s play areas made from recycled tires.  Missouri’s constitution, however, requires that “No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury… in aid of any church.” Missouri therefore rejected the church’s application, and the church sued. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in 2015, ruled in favor of Missouri, and the church appealed, resulting in this Supreme Court case.

“CFI is proud to sign on with the ACLU and our other allies to protect the wall of separation between church and state,” said Robyn Blumner, CFI’s CEO. “It has been a core American principle that taxpayers should not be forced to support religious organizations against their own wishes, and this case is no different.”

This brief, authored by the ACLU, and joined by secular and church-state advocacy groups CFI, the American Humanist Association, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and People For The American Way, argues that not only is Missouri not required to include churches in this state funding program, but also that doing so would violate the Establishment Clause. It notes that the federal courts have always prohibited states directly funding houses of worship. When religious groups have received grants from government, something CFI opposes, there have been strict safeguards to ensure they are not spent on religious activity. The brief notes that such safeguards do not exist here, and that Trinity Lutheran has stated it will not accept any such restrictions.

“This case represents the core of the separation between church and state,” noted Nick Little, CFI’s Legal Director. “It runs contrary to both the U.S. Constitution, and that of the state of Missouri, to require taxpayers, including atheists, Roman Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims, to fund such a facility for a Lutheran Church. It is time for the Supreme Court to reaffirm that true religious freedom is only protected when the state does not fund religious groups from the public purse.”

The Supreme Court will hear this case in the fall session.


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at