Khaleej Times

US Supreme Court set to rule on religious rights; travel ban looms

- Reuters

washington — The US Supreme Court is set to rule on Monday in a closely watched religious rights case involving limits on public funding for churches and other religious entities as the justices issue the final rulings of their current term.

The nine justices are due to rule in six cases, not including their decision expected in the coming days on whether to take up President Donald Trump’s bid to revive his ban on travellers from six predominan­tly Muslim countries in which an emergency appeal is pending.

Of the remaining cases argued during the court’s current term, which began in October, the most eagerly awaited one concerns a Missouri church backed by a conservati­ve Christian legal group. The ruling potentiall­y could narrow the separation of church and state.

A decision in favour of Trinity Lutheran Church, located in Columbia, Missouri, set the stage for more public money to go to religious entities. The church sued after being denied state taxpayer funds for a playground improvemen­t project because of a Missouri constituti­onal provision barring state funding for religious entities.

Trinity Lutheran could be headed for a lopsided win, with two liberal justices joining their conservati­ve colleagues in signaling support during the April oral argument. It was one of the first in which Trump’s conservati­ve appointee to the court, Neil Gorsuch, participat­ed.

The dispute pits two provisions of the US Constituti­on’s First Amendment against each other: the guarantee of the free exercise of religion and the Establishm­ent Clause requiring the separation of church and state.

A broad ruling backing the church could hearten religious conservati­ves who favor weakening the wall between church and state, including using taxpayer money to pay for children to attend private religious schools rather than public schools. —

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