Missouri Attorney General: Church lawsuit should proceed - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Missouri Attorney General: Church lawsuit should proceed

Josh Hawley (Source: Missouri Attorney General's Office) Josh Hawley (Source: Missouri Attorney General's Office)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Attorney General's Office and a Columbia church say that a U.S. Supreme Court case over who qualifies for state grant money should move forward.

Lawyers said Tuesday in letters to the high court that the case isn't moot, even after the governor last week reversed a rule preventing religious organizations from receiving state grant money.

In a statement from the Attorney General's office, First Assistant and Solicitor General John Sauer said the Missouri Attorney General's Office has been recused fro the case.

“Last Thursday, Governor Greitens issued a directive prohibiting state agencies from denying public grants to religious groups on account of their religious nature,” Sauer said. “Because the Attorney General's Office will be called upon to defend this new policy, the Office has recused itself from any further participation in this case. Attorney General Hawley has been personally recused in the case since assuming office in January, as he performed work supporting Trinity Lutheran as a private attorney. Office recusal is now important to preserve the Attorney General's ability to vigorously defend the Governor's policy. Jim Layton, former Missouri Solicitor General under Chris Koster, will represent the Department of Natural Resources going forward in this case and in the oral argument on Wednesday.”

Oral arguments for the case are scheduled to start Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups say the case should be over because the rule change effectively removed the controversy.

The church sued the Department of Natural Resources over a rule that stopped religious organizations from receiving state money for recycled tires for playground surfaces. The department cited a state constitutional amendment stating that religious organizations can't receive public dollars.

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