Gov. Greitens reverses state policy, allowing tax dollars to aid religious groups

Gov. Eric Greitens announced Thursday that he is reversing a state policy aimed at preventing tax dollars from being used to aid religious groups.

Greitens’ decision comes a week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer. The lawsuit challenges a 2012 decision by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to deny the Columbia church a grant to replace the gravel on its playground with softer, safer material.

The request was denied because an amendment in Missouri’s constitution states no money “shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.” It goes on to say that no grant or donation shall ever be made by “the state, or any county, city, town, or other municipal corporation, for any religious creed, church, or sectarian purpose whatever.”

Greitens has instructed the Department of Natural Resources to allow religious organizations to apply for and be eligible to receive those grants.

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director at the ACLU of Missouri, said the governor was blatantly ignoring the state’s constitution.

“Gov. Greiten’s political decision to blur the lines between church and state is dangerous and directly goes against what our nation’s founders intended: to protect religious freedom by keeping it separate from government,” Mittman said in a prepared statement. “This new policy compromises constitutional principles and puts religious freedom for all at risk.”

(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 4/13/17)