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AHLC Condemns Supreme Court Ruling Sending Tax Dollars to Churches

For Immediate Release


Patrick Hudson, Communications Assistant,, 202-238-9022

David Niose, Legal Director,, 202-238-9022

(Washington, D.C., June 26th, 2017)—The American Humanist Association (AHA) expressed grave concern over today’s ruling in the Supreme Court case Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley requiring taxpayer money to flow to a Missouri church school for playground improvements.

“This decision, requiring the transfer of tax money from hard working Missourians to houses of worship, is an assault on the principle of church-state separation” said David Niose, the Legal Director at the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “By requiring state support of houses of worship, this ruling sets a dangerous precedent and will surely entangle religion and public policy going forward.”

In an amicus curiae brief submitted to the US Supreme Court last year, the AHA and other civil liberties and church-state separation organizations defended the position of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Management, which offers grants to organizations wishing to purchase recycled tire rubber to resurface playgrounds. Under state law, the program did not fund organizations that were operated by churches or religious groups. When the state denied a grant application from Trinity Lutheran Church’s preschool, the church sued, claiming the denial was discriminatory and violated its religious freedom.

In Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, she stated that “the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship.” Most worryingly, however, is that Justice Clarence Thomas and newly appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch (both of whom sided with the church) refused to sign onto a footnote that explicitly stated their approval extends no farther than playground funding.

Last years’ amicus brief can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

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