Fighting To Protect Freedom Of Conscience
And Freedom For Faith Communities
Religious freedom protects our right to believe—or not—free from government interference. Indeed, religion and belief are stronger without government support.
A U.S. Supreme Court case, though, threatens to disturb the healthy distance between religion and government. On April 19, the Court will hear arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, and the decision could deeply erode the principle of church-state separation, the foundation of religious freedom. (The case previously was known as Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley).
If Trinity Lutheran wins, state and local governments will be required to give taxpayer funds to churches, synagogues and mosques.
That’s why Americans United, along with other religious and civil-rights organizations, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in this case. Just as we have for seventy years, AU is fighting to protect religious freedom.
UPDATE: On April 13, Missouri’s governor announced that he will give taxpayer funding to churches, exactly what Trinity Lutheran asked for in its lawsuit. Because the governor has provided the remedy that the church requested, the case should end now: There’s no longer anything to ask of the Supreme Court. Learn more here.
Freedom Of Conscience
The core of our Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom is the principle that religion must be freely chosen. Freedom of conscience means that you can decide which religion to follow—if any—without government coercion or interference. It also means the government can’t tax you and then use those funds to pay for religious ministries or the upkeep of any house of worship, because we each get to decide for ourselves whether and how our money goes to support religion.
Protecting Faith Communities From Government Discrimination
The government shouldn’t have the right to pick and choose which faith communities are worthy of government support. Discrimination is the inevitable result, and minority faiths and smaller, less popular houses of worship are the most likely to be left out. This is why most state constitutions ensure the government does not fund houses of worship.
Freedom For Faith Communities
The independence of faith communities allows them to pursue their own ministries and speak out about the issues of the day to policymakers without interference. If houses of worship become dependent on government money, they also may lose this freedom.
Op-Ed By The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, AU's Executive Director: In America, Religious Groups Should Pay Their Own Way
Blog By Bill Mefford, AU's Faith Organizer: Authentic Faith Doesn’t Need Taxpayer ‘Help’
Op-Ed By The Rev. Rick McClatchy, Texas: Religious Freedom At Risk Before The Supreme Court
Op-Ed By Sister Jennifer Harmon, O.S.B., Oklahoma: State Funding Isn't Worth Its Price To Churches
- AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee On SCOTUSblog
Our April 18 Letter Asking The Supreme Court To Dismiss The Case
Our Amicus Brief To The Supreme Court
Americans United's Summary Of The Case