religious rights case involving limits on public funding for churches
and other religious entities as the justices issue the final rulings of
their current term.
The nine justices are due to rule in six cases, not
including their decision expected in the coming days on whether to take
up President Donald Trump’s bid to revive his ban on travelers from six
predominantly Muslim countries in which an emergency appeal is pending.
Of the remaining cases argued during the court’s
current term, which began in October, the most eagerly awaited one
concerns a Missouri church backed by a conservative Christian legal
group. The ruling potentially could narrow the separation of church and
A decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church, located
in Columbia, Missouri, set the stage for more public money to go to
religious entities. The church sued after being denied state taxpayer
funds for a playground improvement project because of a Missouri
constitutional provision barring state funding for religious entities.
Trinity Lutheran could be headed for a lopsided win,
with two liberal justices joining their conservative colleagues in
signaling support during the April oral argument. It was one of the
first in which Trump’s conservative appointee to the court, Neil
The dispute pits two provisions of the U.S.
Constitution’s First Amendment against each other: the guarantee of the
free exercise of religion and the Establishment Clause requiring the
separation of church and state.
A broad ruling backing the church could hearten
religious conservatives who favor weakening the wall between church and
state, including using taxpayer money to pay for children to attend
private religious schools rather than public schools. President Donald
Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a leading supporter of such
“school choice” plans.
The most notable of three immigration-related cases in
which rulings are due on Monday is a dispute over whether immigrants
detained by the U.S. government for more than six months while
deportation proceedings unfold should be able to request their release.
The case takes on additional significance with Trump ratcheting up
immigration enforcement, placing more people in detention awaiting
The court also is set to decide a case that could
clarify the criminal acts for which legal immigrants may be deported.
Another involves whether the family of a Mexican teenager shot dead
while standing on Mexican soil by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas
can sue for civil rights violations.
As the justices look to finish work before their summer
break, they must decide what to do with Trump’s travel ban, which was
blocked by lower courts. His administration has made an emergency
request asking for the ban to go into effect while the litigation
The March 6 executive order called for a 90-day ban on
travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a
120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States to let the
government implement stronger vetting. Trump has said the order is
needed urgently to prevent terrorism in the United States.