Cases worth watching: several upcoming Supreme Court cases will have an impact on states.

Author:Soronen, Lisa


The U.S. Supreme Court is still down one justice, but its docket is right on schedule. It's more than half full, which is typical for this time of year. Six cases in particular will directly affect at least some of the states. Interestingly, the court agreed to decide the religion and the takings cases before Justice Antonin Scalia's death last winter.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley

The court will decide whether Missouri can refuse to provide a state grant to a religious preschool to resurface its playground, based on the state's "super-Establishment Clause." Such clauses include prohibitions against aid to churches and religious schools that exceed the requirements of the federal Establishment Clause; they are on the books in 35 states, according to the National Constitution Center.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources offers grants to "qualifying organizations" to purchase recycled tires to resurface playgrounds. The DNR refused to give a playground grant to Trinity Lutheran's preschool, citing the super-Establishment Clause.

Trinity Lutheran argues that excluding it from an "otherwise neutral and secular aid program" violates the U.S. Constitution's Free Exercise and Equal Protection clauses, which may supersede Missouri's super-Establishment Clause.

In Locke v. Davey (2004), the court upheld the Washington Legislature's decision to prohibit post-secondary students from using public scholarships to receive a degree in theology, based on its super-Establishment Clause. A lower court concluded Locke applies in the Trinity case: "Trinity Church seeks to compel the direct grant of public funds to churches, another of the 'hallmarks of an established religion.'"

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District

Per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, parents may enroll children with a disability in a private school and receive reimbursement from the public school if the public school was unable to provide the child a FAPE--that is, a free and appropriate public education. A FAPE must be "reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits."

Endrew F. is autistic and has ADHD. His parents enrolled him in a private school because they thought Douglas County School District, south of Denver, wasn't providing him a FAPE. They sought reimbursement from the district.

The question in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District is whether a student with disabilities must receive a "meaningful"...

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