21 Jan 2020

Supreme Court to Hear First Amendment Case

Justin Upchurch

Keeping up with the latest trends and happenings in the church world can be overwhelming. We live in a day and age where things are changing nearly as quickly as they are taking place. Such is the case with church compliance and the legislative culture we live in today.

First Amendment tensions between church and state are consistently being addressed and challenged and are being brought before our country’s highest court. For instance, tomorrow, Wednesday, January 22, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing a case of national importance. This case will address the question, “Can the benefits of a government program be denied to churches simply because they are churches?”

The court case being heard on Wednesday, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, pertains to state scholarship aid to help pay for private school tuition. This case is very similar to the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017. 

Although we wrote about the Trinity Lutheran case in 2018, a re-fresher is warranted in order to help understand the significance of the Espinoza case being heard tomorrow. 

Grant funding availability for church playgrounds

In the case of Trinity Lutheran Church, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state program providing free playground surfacing to any school or preschool, except for those run by churches or other religious organizations, violated the protection of the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment.

In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that “Trinity Lutheran is a member of the community too, and the State’s decision to exclude it for purposes of the public program must withstand the strictest scrutiny.”

While this may not seem like a big deal, this case set a huge precedent for churches!

It is still important to note that there are grants for which churches will not qualify because the nature of the grant may be to fund a specific activity or purpose that is in no way related to a church. 

However, as we see in the case mentioned above, there are instances in which certain state or federal grants may be available to your church. You can search for grants that your church may be eligible for on websites such as grants.gov and grantwatch.com

The key to your church’s eligibility for grant funding will be contingent on whether or not it is 501(c)(3) approved.

Get on the Path to 501(C)(3) Status Today!

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Looking at the bigger picture 

While tomorrow’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court may not seem like a big deal to you and your church, the truth is that wins in cases like this lead to bigger victories for the Church in the future. Furthermore, I believe it is imperative for pastors and church leaders to be as informed as possible. As this case progresses, we will make sure to keep you informed as updates to this case are made available throughout the year.

At StartCHURCH, it is our passion to provide you, pastors, and church leaders, with the most invaluable, accurate, and up-to-date information as possible. We understand that the journey you are traversing is not an easy one, but it one worth crossing, and we want to partner with you and help you succeed.

If you have any questions about your church or ministry, or about starting a church or ministry, 877-494-4655 and ask to speak with one of our church planting specialists. Or, click the link below to schedule a call.  

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Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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