When the separation of church and state leads to children with scraped knees


‘A scraped knee is a scraped knee whether it happens at a Montessori day care or a Lutheran day care.’







When not furrowing their collective brows about creches and displays of the Ten Commandments here and there, courts often are pondering tangential contacts between the government and religious schools. Courts have held that public money can constitutionally fund the transportation of parochial school pupils to classes — but not on field trips. It can fund nurses at parochial schools — but not guidance counselors. It can fund books — but not maps. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wondered: What about atlases, which are books of maps? On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will consider the constitutional significance of this incontrovertible truth: “A scraped knee is a scraped knee whether it happens at a Montessori day care or a Lutheran day care.”
That assertion is in an agreeably brief amicus brief written by Michael McConnell, a Stanford University law professor specializing in church-state relations. He requires just 13 pages to make mincemeat of Missouri’s contention that a bit of 19th-century bigotry lodged in its constitution requires it to deny shredded tires to Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, which runs a preschool. . . .