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Supreme Court Rules Missouri Church Can Use Public Money for Playground Project

The Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 7–2 decision that churches have the same rights as non-religious charitable groups to use state funds for secular public goods, like a soft rubber surface for its pre-school playground, the Associated Press reports.

Dissenting justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg argued that the ruling weakens the country's long-standing separation between church and state.

The Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, sued the state after it was denied reimbursement from Missouri's scrap tire grant program in 2012 for installing a new surface, made from recycled tires, in its playground. The state rejected Trinity Lutheran's application for grant funding, arguing that 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."

The decision could influence the laws of the dozens of states that ban religious organizations from using taxpayer dollars for projects.