Cases & Deals

Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance’s amicus brief helps persuade Supreme Court that faith-based organizations must be allowed to compete on “equal footing” for public benefits

Client(s) Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Jones Day filed an amicus brief on behalf of a national association of faith-based organizations, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify that, at least in the absence of exceptional circumstances, religiously motivated institutions may not be excluded from otherwise neutral grant programs. In June 2017, the Court held that the State of Missouri violated the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution when it excluded a church’s preschool from competing on “equal footing” for a playground-resurfacing grant, “solely because of [the preschool’s] religious character.” The Court’s decision in this closely watched case—Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer—not only reaches the result that Jones Day’s amicus brief had advocated, but it also picks up on an argument made in Jones Day’s brief.

Jones Day’s brief argued that excluding faith-based organizations from grants imperils the wide array of social services such organizations provide to their communities. In addition, Jones Day’s brief quoted the Supreme Court’s decision about Article III standing in Ne. Fla. Chapter of Associated Gen. Contractors v. City of Jacksonville, 508 U.S. 656 (1993), to support the argument that, under the Free Exercise Clause, the government cannot deny faith-based organizations the ability to compete on “equal footing in [their] quest for a benefit.” Amicus Br. 24 (quoting Jacksonville, 508 U.S. at 666–67). Although the parties’ briefs did not quote the Jacksonville decision, the Court’s opinion in Trinity Lutheran emphasized the same point—and quoted some of the same language—that Jones Day’s amicus brief had highlighted.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, No. 15-577 (U.S.)