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SCOTUS: Churches have right to seek state money for non-religious needs

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has ruled that churches have the same right as other charitable groups to seek state money for new playground surfaces and other non-religious needs.

The justices on Monday ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri.

Missouri launched a grant program in 2012 to encourage schools to use recycled tires to produce safer playground surfaces.

A preschool run by the church applied for the grant, but was denied any money even though its application was ranked fifth out of 44 submissions.

Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court that it “is odious to our Constitution” to exclude the church from the grant program. Roberts said that’s true even though the consequences are only “a few extra scraped knees.”