Supreme Court to Hear Dispute Over Separation of Church and State

Cue Card preview image

General Information

NBC Nightly News
Kate Snow/Pete Williams
Event Date:
Air/Publish Date:
Resource Type:
Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
Clip Length:


Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will hear his first case about whether Missouri discriminated against a Lutheran church by leaving its preschool out of funding for new playgrounds.The case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, will decide whether the exclusion of churches from a secular aid program violates the First Amendment's guarantee of the free exercise of religion and the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.



"Supreme Court to Hear Dispute Over Separation of Church and State." Pete Williams, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 16 Apr. 2017. NBC Learn. Web. 3 November 2018.


Williams, P. (Reporter), & Snow, K. (Anchor). (2017, April 16). Supreme Court to Hear Dispute Over Separation of Church and State. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Supreme Court to Hear Dispute Over Separation of Church and State" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 04/16/2017. Accessed Sat Nov 3 2018 from NBC Learn:


Supreme Court to Hear Dispute Over Separation of Church and State

KATE SNOW, anchor:

Tomorrow morning, the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing the final cases of the term, and the newest justice just confirmed, Neil Gorsuch, will take his seat on the bench for the first time. He could make a big difference in one of those cases involving religious freedom. Our justice correspondent Pete Williams has that story.

MAN: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

PETE WILLIAMS, reporting:

The arrival of Neil Gorsuch with a conservative judicial record restores the ideological makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court. He takes the seat left vacant by the death 14 months ago of Antonin Scalia, giving the court's generally conservative justices once again a five to four majority, and that may make the difference in one of the most important cases of the term involving religion and government. On Wednesday, the court hears a claim that Missouri discriminated against a Lutheran Church by leaving its pre-school out of a program to improve school playgrounds. Missouri's constitution says no state money can ever be spent to aid a church. But the church says it should not be treated differently when it comes to making playgrounds safer.

KERRI KUPEC: And the constitution is very clear. The government cannot treat people of faith and their religious organizations like second-class citizens.

WILLIAMS: But Missouri and its supporters say it's not interfering with the church's religious practices, it just won't subsidize them.

BARRY LYNN: It's a radical departure from the idea that if you need something done in your church, you ask your parishioners to dig deeper into their pocket and pay for it themselves.

WILLIAMS: As a federal judge, Gorsuch has been sympathetic to claims of religious discrimination.

TOM GOLDSTEIN: It was Justice Gorsuch's views on religious liberty that might have been the most persuasive thing to conservative advocates when he was nominated. So it would be a surprise if he weren't in favor of the interests of the church in this case.

WILLIAMS: Justice Gorsuch may also play a role in deciding if the court will hear a case about whether private businesses, like bakers and florists, can refuse on religious grounds to provide their services for same-sex weddings.

WILLIAMS: There's a new twist in the Missouri religion case. The newly-elected governor says the state will no longer automatically turn down requests for money from churches. So, Neil Gorsuch and the other justices must now decide if they still want to hear that case. Kate.