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The Latest: DeVos weighs in on Supreme Court church decision

June 26, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the Supreme Court ruling for a Missouri church (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is praising a Supreme Court decision that found the state of Missouri violated the First Amendment by denying public money to a church for a playground solely because of its religious status.

DeVos says the ruling makes clear that “programs designed to help students will no longer be discriminated against by the government based solely on religious affiliation.”

DeVos is a strong proponent of school voucher programs, which use public money to help low-income students attend private schools, including religious ones. Some critics argue using public money for religious school tuition is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

The Education Department budget proposal includes more than $1 billion to expand school choice, including $250 million for a nationwide voucher program.

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10:17 a.m.

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. The church sought a grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground, 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.”

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