Shortly after being sworn in, Neil Gorsuch is set to hear his first case as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and it concerns religious liberty in America.
Gorsuch, the 113th justice of the Supreme Court, is set to hear Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Comer, a case brought up by Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri on April 19, NBC reported. The church reportedly applied to receive funds from a Government program that provides grants to non-profits for creating a safer playing environment for children.
The church applied for the grant so that it could resurface the playground at its pre-school and daycare center in 2012, replacing the gravel in playgrounds with a safer rubber surface made from recycled tires. More than 90 percent of the children who attend the preschool do not attend Trinity church, The Christian Institute noted. The playground is also open to the community during weekends.
Despite this, the state of Missouri denied the church's application, citing a clause in its constitution that prohibits the release of taxpayer money "directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion."
Trinity Lutheran Church argued that the state provision violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment by discriminating against religious organizations, the Atlantic reported. Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty organization assisting the church in the case, agrees.
"The state ultimately denied the preschool a reimbursement grant for its playground solely because the playground belongs to a religious organization," ADF said.
While the case appears to be about child safety, it goes beyond that. If the justices rule in favor of Trinity Lutheran, it would mean religious nonprofits find it easier to receive state grants. If the justices decide in favor of the state, religious nonprofits will find it hard to apply for government funding even if they use it for projects benefiting the general public. Furthermore, religious nonprofits could even be "denied basic safety services like fire and police protection," the ADF noted.
Gorsuch, who filled the vacant seat left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is known for speaking favorably in cases concerning religious liberty and the sanctity of life.
"Gorsuch seems to be on the side believing that government programs should treat religious freedoms fairly and should recognize the rights of religious organizations to participate in public welfare-type programs," professor Stephen Wermiel of the American University's Washington School of Law told Fox News.