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Religious Freedom

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     The "Supreme Court," today, issued a ruling that some say pushes the boundaries of "separation of church and state".

     It's a case that originated in Missouri.

The controversy started in Columbia, Missouri -- at the Trinity Lutheran Church.

In 2012, they applied for a grant from the state to resurface their daycare playground through the state's recycled tire program.

It ranked fifth out of 44 submissions.

But the state said "no", citing a provision in the Missouri constitution that bars state funding for religious entities.

Pastor Gregory Mech with Immanuel Lutheran Church in Joplin says he's never run into issues with state funding, because they've elected not to go to the state.

Mech: "For the most part we've gone to private institutions or, non-for-profits, when we've been looking for grants."

Mech says the government did help after the Joplin tornado..

Mech: "We were very pleasantly surprised at the, willingness of the federal government to help restore the property and especially our schoolyard."

That's because -- according to FEMA -- churches that provide community services, such as education and day care, can be eligible for federal and state grants for disaster relief.

Which comes from taxpayer money.

And taxpayer money is at the basis of the argument.

At what point can funding be denied based simply on the fact that it's a church.

The Supreme Court 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 ACLU of Missouri issued a statement -- saying in part: "..today's decision is disappointing because religious freedom should protect unwilling taxpayers from funding church property, not force them to foot the bill."

Despite opposition to the ruling, Reverend Mech says it shouldn't matter what group receives the funding so long as it's going to protect children."

Mech: "I do believe that if activities are being done in a responsible way and if they benefit the general populous, then it shouldn't matter quite as much who it is that's providing those beneficial activities."

     Back in April, Governor Eric Greitens instructed the "Department of Natural Resources" to allow such organizations to apply for and receive DNR grants.

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Chris Warner
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A Joplin native, Chris first started in broadcasting at age 16 at KSNF-TV in 2004..

Chris joined the KOAM team in 2017 as an Associate Producer. In April, he moved into a full-time reporter position. He spent time from 2008 to 2016 in various retail roles around the region before returning to his passion at KOAM. Chris is excited to continue telling the stories of the four states. Chris and his wife Amber live in Joplin and have three amazing children.

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