EDMOND, Okla. – A private, religious school in the metro area is looking forward to the effects of a Supreme Court decision on religious liberty.
By a 7-2 decision, the court ruled a preschool run by Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri was the victim of discrimination.
The preschool was seeking state money to help renovate its playground.
Holy Trinity Lutheran in Edmond said the court’s decision will make it easier to receive grants for its own playground or new technology.
“I think it’s going to open the door for us to bring more resources to our students that, maybe because of funding, we weren’t able to,” said Stacy Yates, Holy Trinity’s communications director. “Just because we have ‘private school’ or they have ‘public school’ by their name – we’re all working to impact the lives of our children and educate them to have better lives in the future.”
The Edmond school had been keeping a close eye on the case from their counterparts in Missouri, hoping for what it considers a favorable outcome.
With this result, school director Debbie Swanson expects to write more grants that she passed over before.
“An incentive maybe to do it, yeah,” she told NewsChannel 4. “I think, in the past, we’ve kind of strayed away from it because we didn’t want the hassle of having to apply to something and knowing we could possibly be turned down.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling overturns at least a portion of Missouri’s Blaine Amendment, which is very similar to Oklahoma’s, said University of Oklahoma Constitutional Law Professor Joseph Thai.
“The potential sweep of the decision is pretty broad. All Oklahoma taxpayers may end up supporting churches and religious schools, whether or not they want to,” he said. “Before yesterday’s decision, the Oklahoma Constitution forbade the state from publicly funding religious institutions. Yesterday’s ruling, by contrast, requires the state to offer public funding to religious institutions that is made generally available to secular institutions for non-religious uses.”
What that means for the future remains to be seen, Thai said.
Opponents often use the state’s Blaine Amendment to fight controversial issues like school voucher programs and placing the Ten Commandments monument on capitol grounds.
Legislation and state questions, including one voters shot down in November, often suffers from fears it won’t be constitutional, said Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon.
This decision could open the door to revisiting the state question, he said.
“I think [people] are going to start noticing if the legislature is paying attention,” Thai said. “Because, if the legislature wants to benefit religious schools or religious institutions, then the legislature can open all manner of grant programs to the general public or to non-profits.”