The Gross National Debt

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Sound of Splodey Head II

In a 7-2 decision, further fractured a lil bit on one of the footnotes to the majority decision, The Supremes said tax dollars can go to a church-based preschool-day care center for playground equipment.


I looked up what the Constitution has to say on the "separation of church & state."


The word "church" does not appear in the document. The word "separation" does not appear in the document. Call this a niggling point if you will. I'm gonna refer you to the word "militia" every time you do.

The phrase used to support this erroneous notion of "separation of church & state" is found in the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…" This also applies to state governments courtesy another Amendment.

That's it.

No law limiting religion or creating a religion. SCOTUS has reigned in some religious practices and allowed others.


The Declaration of Independence, which SCOTUS uses as a basis for decisions, makes references to a higher power.

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

And, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…"

And, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."


Nothing in the Constitution or the Declaration says government and religion must stand completely apart. The Declaration says the people who make a government need to rely on the divine.

Nothing in either document says an elected official must abandon his faith at the door to his governmental office.

Nothing in either document says an elected official cannot be guided by religious principles. 

In fact, those in government are expressly permitted to have a religion and use it. "…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…" This also means those in government need not express a religious faith. It also means, government types cannot force their religious preferences on others.

It also means those in government may be Christian, Satanist, Islamist, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster-ist (Pastafarian), Voodun, Sikh, Buddhist, Jedi and so many more. (and lo, the sound of splodey heads from my Babdist relatives!)

SCOTUS has ruled, sort of, that a government official cannot use religion to accept or deny a request for government services. See this exact decision for specifics.


Trinity Lutheran has a playground for the preschool and daycare center. Anyone can send their children there.

The church wanted to replace a pea gravel surface in the playground with rubber. It applied to the state for a grant to do so. The state said no.

The majority of the High Court dropped a nuke on this one. "The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion. And the result of the State’s policy is nothing so dramatic as the denial of political office. The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand."

The issue here is - All chitlins are welcome. All can come. All can play. Yeah, it is based at a church. So? Let the lil chilluns come unto us.

Now, lemme beat some of you over the head with your own stick.


A baker MUST make a cake even if it violates his religious principles, some of you say. He pays taxes, buys a business license and etc. He agrees to be bound by the rules of commerce.

Lean in a little closer.


pantpantpant. Now behave lest I loose Miss Pine on your noggin yet again.

The day care center has to get a license. It has to be inspected. It has to abide by state rules regarding daycare. It has to take anyone who can pony up the bucks to get their child in. It pays taxes. Get you some laws.

If the day care center is bound by all the rules of other day care centers in the state, it gets to play by the same rules as the other day care centers in the state.

That you don't like it, well now, I am just highly amused at your discomfiture. Now you get an idea of how I feel. Ain't so much fun when your rules get applied to you, eh? The sound you now hear is my laughter at your pain pealing off the distance fringes of our galaxy.


The 7-2 split saying Trinity Lutheran could get tax dollars for its playground was split even further.

Breyer, voting with the majority, posted a 2-page opinion of his own. "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."

Gorsuch, also voting with the majority, has a 3-page opinion of his own. "First, the Court leaves open the possibility a useful distinction might be drawn between laws that discriminate on the basis of religious status and religious use. See ante, at 12. Respectfully, I harbor doubts about the stability of such a line. Does a religious man say grace before dinner? Or does a man begin his meal in a religious manner? Is it a religious group that built the playground? Or did a group build the playground so it might be used to advance a religious mission? The distinction blurs in much the same way the line between acts and omissions can blur when stared at too long, leaving us to ask (for example) whether the man who drowns by awaiting the incoming tide does so by act (coming upon the sea) or omission (allowing the sea to come upon him).

"Neither do I see why the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause should care. After all, that Clause guarantees the free exercise of religion, not just the right to inward belief (or status).

"Of course the footnote is entirely correct, but I worry that some might mistakenly read it to suggest that only “playground resurfacing” cases, or only those with some association with children’s safety or health, or perhaps some other social good we find sufficiently worthy, are governed by the legal rules recounted in and faithfully applied by the Court’s opinion. Such a reading would be unreasonable for our cases are “governed by general principles, rather than ad hoc improvisations." And the general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise—whether on the playground or anywhere else."

Justice Thomas's own opinion says in part "The Court today reaffirms that “denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion that can be justified,” if at all, “only by a state interest ‘of the highest order.’”  The Free Exercise Clause, which generally prohibits laws that facially discriminate against religion, compels this conclusion."


Justice Sotomayor and Ginsburg were the two dissenting judges. Sotomayor's opinion is longer as the majority opinion. Ginsburg musta sat on her hands.

She opens with, "To hear the Court tell it, this is a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground. The stakes are higher. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government—that is, between church and state. The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church. Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both."

She ends with, "If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship. The Court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment."

As Nina Totenburg said in her NPR report, "To opponents and supporters of such taxpayer aid to religious schools, Monday's decision in the Trinity Lutheran case is the camel's nose in the tent."


What's REALLY gonna create splodey heads is when a Satanist church applies for a government grant to do something similar.

And one rule to ring them all.

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