The case is Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, in which the Missouri church was sued after being denied state funding to restore its preschool playground because; the state Constitution denies financial support to a religious institution. Though the policy in the state has changed, the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the justices ruled 7 to 2 that the state’s original decision sullied the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion by excluding churches with a secular intent from state programs.
Missouri and several other states have in their constitutions provisions known as Blaine amendments that forbid the state government from using public funds for “any church, sector or denomination of religion.”
These measures prevented legislatures from implementing school voucher programs that used public money to pay for religious and private school tuition and education expenses, while lower courts have different interpretations.
School-choice supporters argue that the Blaine amendments discriminate religious institutions while voucher the opponents that they protect the doctrine of “separation of church and state” that has been interpreted as the establishment and free exercise clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an religion establishment, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are big supporters of expanding school choice. DeVos, who called traditional public schools a “dead end,” made clear that expanding school choice is her top priority, and the Trump administration has proposed spending at least $1 billion on a new federally funded voucher program.