ADF to court: Mo. can’t arbitrarily choose which Christian pre-school qualifies for scrap tire program

ADF, allied attorney available for media interviews following hearing Thursday
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Erik Stanley

WHO: ADF-allied attorney Joel Oster, ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley
WHAT: Available to media following oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley
 Thursday, Jan. 15, immediately after hearing, which begins at 9 a.m. CST
WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit sitting in special session at Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, One Post Office Square, 815 Olive St., Room 304, St. Louis

ST. LOUIS – An Alliance Defending Freedom attorney and allied attorney representing a Columbia, Missouri, Christian pre-school and daycare center will be available for media interviews Thursday following oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

In February, ADF attorneys appealed the state’s decision to deny the center access to a program that provides recycled tires to surface children’s playgrounds. The state claims it denied the center because a church runs it; however, state officials have approved church-run centers on 15 other occasions.

“The children at this pre-school are no less worthy of the safety provided by the tires this program offers than are children at other schools,” said Joel Oster, co-counsel who will argue before the court Thursday and who is one of more than 2,500 private allied attorneys with ADF. “Contrary to what the state is arguing, the government is clearly not endorsing religion by simply providing recycled tires to create a safer environment on playgrounds. The state was right not to discriminate against the other 15 religious daycare centers, and it should not arbitrarily discriminate against this one.”

Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center in Columbia sought to participate in the 2012 Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grant Program. The center wished to remove and replace a large portion of the pea gravel surfacing on its playgrounds with a safer, recycled, pour-in-place rubberized product. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources disqualified Trinity Lutheran solely because it is operated by Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, pointing to a section of the state constitution that prohibits government funding of religion.

“The state constitution actually prohibits religious discrimination,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The state violated this provision by singling out this pre-school for exclusion from the program while having legitimately allowed other religious daycare centers to participate in the past. We hope the court resolves the state’s unjust double standard.”

ADF-allied attorney Michael K. Whitehead is serving as local counsel in the case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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