Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer,
Annotate this Case
582 U.S. ___ (2017)
- Syllabus |
- Opinion (John G. Roberts, Jr.) |
- Concurrence (Gorsuch) |
- Concurrence (Clarence Thomas) |
- Concurrence (Stephen G. Breyer) |
- Dissent (Sonia Sotomayor)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH OF COLUMBIA, INC., PETITIONER v. CAROL S. COMER, DIRECTOR, MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF NATURALRESOURCES
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eighth circuit
[June 26, 2017]
Justice Breyer, concurring in the judgment.
I agree with much of what the Court says and with its result. But I find relevant, and would emphasize, the particular nature of the “public benefit” here at issue. Cf. ante, at 11 (“Trinity Lutheran . . . asserts a right to participate in a government benefit program”); ante, at 12 (referring to precedent “striking down laws requiring individuals to choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit” (internal quotation marks omitted)); ante, at 10 (referring to Trinity Lutheran’s “automatic and absolute exclusion from the benefits of a public program”); ante, at 9–10 (the State’s policy disqualifies “otherwise eligible recipients . . . from a public benefit solely because of their religious character”); ante, at 6–7 (quoting the statement in Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing, 330 U. S. 1, 16 (1947) , that the State “cannot exclude” individuals “because of their faith” from “receiving the benefits of public welfare legislation”).
The Court stated in Everson that “cutting off church schools from” such “general government services as ordinary police and fire protection . . . is obviously not the purpose of the First Amendment.” 330 U. S., at 17–18. Here, the State would cut Trinity Lutheran off from participation in a general program designed to secure or to improve the health and safety of children. I see no significant difference. The fact that the program at issue ultimately funds only a limited number of projects cannot itself justify a religious distinction. Nor is there any administrative or other reason to treat church schools differently. The sole reason advanced that explains the difference is faith. And it is that last-mentioned fact that calls the Free Exercise Clause into play. We need not go further. Public benefits come in many shapes and sizes. I would leave the application of the Free Exercise Clause to other kinds of public benefits for another day.