In a case soon to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state of Missouri denied a church preschool a grant to transform discarded rubber tires into a safe surface for its playground—because the state constitution forbids giving public funds to religious institutions. Terry Eastland explains the case’s significance:
The church is making three claims: one under the First Amendment’s establishment clause, a second under its free-exercise clause, and a third under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause. It is the equal-protection argument that is most interesting. . . . [In an amicus brief], the Pacific Legal Foundation . . . argues that, while equal-protection cases “most commonly address discrimination on the basis of race,” the Supreme Court’s equal-protection decisions “reflect the view that differential treatment on the basis of religion is just as intolerable.” . . .
The foundation says that Missouri violated the U.S. Constitution by excluding [the church playground] from its Scrap Tire Program on the basis of religion. Treating people differently on the basis of race is subject to “strict scrutiny,” the Supreme Court’s “most stringent standard of review.” The Pacific Legal Foundation argues that “strict scrutiny is just as appropriate” when classifications based on religion are under review. . . .
By taking seriously unequal treatment on the basis of religion, the Pacific Legal Foundation has offered an understanding of equal protection and what it entails that is worthy of the Court’s attention.