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Getting Taxpayer-Funded Free Stuff Is not “Religious Liberty”

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mises.org /  / June 30, 2017

There seems to be some confusion among religious columnists as to what constitutes religious freedom and what does not.

In a recent column for Crisis, Thomas Ascik claims that the US Supreme Court’s ruling inTrinity Lutheran v. Comer is a victory for “the free exercise of religion.”

The ruling essentially states that church organization can now receive government grants for amenities and activities that are not specifically religious activities. In the case of Trinity Lutheran specifically, the church had applied for a government grant to repave its playground with recycled automobile tires.

The state of Missouri denied the grant to the church on the grounds that it was a religious organization. Now SCOTUS has ruled such exclusionary policies are unconstitutional.

That’s fine as far as it goes. I have no more of a problem with Trinity Lutheran receiving state funds than with Secular Daycare Brand X receiving them. In both cases, the taxpayers have been ripped off and their money handed over to someone else. The fact that Trinity Lutheran is a church is not the problem in this equation.

But, let’s not pretend that getting a government grant has anything to do with the free exercise of religion or religious liberty. In no way did the grant-selection process mean that Trinity Lutheran or its membership was prevented from freely exercising its faith. As a result of the grant going to some other organization, the building was not seized by the state, the members were not silenced, and the church’s publications were not censored.

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