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Before the Court: Religious Liberty and A New Justice

In this tele-town hall, Dr. John C. Eastman and his guests discuss religious discrimination issues within Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer and what Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court may mean for our efforts to roll back the administrative state and restore the constitution’s limitations on executive power.

Joseph Tartakovsky joined to discuss Trinity Lutheran Church vComer. In this case, Nevada Deputy Solicitor General and the Claremont Institute’s James Wilson Fellow in Constitutional Law. In this case, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources denied a state grant to resurface a playground at a child-learning center in Missouri solely because a church operates the center. The church argues that its exclusion from a state run program, whose purpose is to assist non-profit organizations with obtaining rubber playground surfaces, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against religious institutions. Meanwhile, the state argues that there is no constitutional violation because the church can still run its learning center, and the state constitution forbids government aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation. In 2014, the district court ruled against Trinity Lutheran, which then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which also sided with the state. 

With the appointment of Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, many commentators have made note of his opinions while serving as a judge on the Tenth Circuit challenging lawmaking by unelected administrative agencies and the various doctrines that courts had developed over the years giving deference to those unelected bureaucrats.  Because the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence has been at the forefront of the challenge to the administrative state and these doctrines, Anthony Caso joined to discuss what those doctrines mean for the Constitution’s separation of powers and how significant Justice Gorsuch’s elevation to the Supreme Court might be. Professor Caso is the Director of our Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law.

Dr. Eastman is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University Fowler School of Law. He served as a law clerk with Justice Clarence Thomas in 1996-97. Dr. Eastman currently serves as the chairman of the Federalist Society’s Federalism and Separation of Powers practice group.