Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Invalidate State Laws Barring Aid to Religious Institutions; Orthodox Union’s Legal Brief Cited in Today’s Oral Arguments

Posted on April 19, 2017 In Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate state laws barring state aid to religious institutions. The case argued at the high court today involves a church seeking state funding to make its playground safer.

The State of Missouri denied the funding to Trinity Lutheran Church on the grounds that it is a religious institution. During oral arguments today, Justice Samuel Alito cited the “friend of the court” brief filed by the Orthodox Union that supports the church and called for non-discrimination toward religion in government aid programs. The Orthodox Union’s brief was authored by Nathan Diament (OU executive director of public policy) and Professor Michael Helfand (Pepperdine Law School).

Justice Alito referred to the Orthodox Union’s ‘friend of the court’ brief, which notes that synagogues, mosques and religious schools already receive federal funding for security under the NonProfit Security Grant Program (NSPG), which provides grants to religious institutions and other nonprofits at risk of terrorist attacks, which the Orthodox Union helped create in 2005. (He further cited other federal and local government aid programs listed in the brief in his questioning at the argument session.)

Said Alito, in mentioning the Orthodox Union and the NSGP, “So if you have a — a synagogue that is at high risk for an attack by an anti-Semitic group or a mosque that is considered to be at high risk for attack by an anti-Muslim group, would the Missouri constitution permit the erection of bollards like we have around the court here?” (Full transcript)

A ruling is expected by the end of June. If the Supreme Court votes in favor of the church, religious organizations across the country could receive greater public support for certain purposes.

Said the Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament:
“The Orthodox Union has advocated for decades that government aid programs must not discriminate against religious entities that otherwise qualify for the aid via religion neutral criteria. We are grateful that our argument has been accepted by the U.S. Congress (in the DHS security grant program) and state legislatures in New York, Pennsylvania and other locales. It is high time a majority on the high court clearly enunciate that a prohibition on the establishment of religion does not demand hostility toward and discrimination against religion.”

Orthodox Union President Mark Bane stated:
“We are proud that our legal brief played a role in today’s consideration of this important case by the Supreme Court. We are hopeful that our argument against religious discrimination in government aid programs will become the clear principle of constitutional law when the Court issues its ruling in the case.”

Read more about the case in an op-ed authored by Diament, “Will the Supreme Court let faith make children unsafe?”