If a state awards grants, on religiously neutral criteria, to create safer playground surfaces, it cannot exclude an otherwise eligible playground simply because it is owned by a church. Such discrimination against religion violates the Free Exercise Clause, and awarding the grant would not violate the Establishment Clause. This holding, in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer,  is an incremental step in a large and continuing evolution. It may lead to bigger steps, but Trinity Lutheran does not take those steps. To the dissenters, Trinity Lutheran crossed an important line. Was this case about playground surfaces and the safety of children? Or was it about direct government aid to a church? It was about both, and the question was which characterization should control. Trinity Lutheran further erodes special rules against direct aid to the church itself or to pervasively sectarian organizations more generally. It erodes the line between direct and indirect aid. And it does all this in the course of deciding not what the state may fund, but what it must fund if it funds secular organizations engaged in the same activity.

Douglas Laycock, Churches, Playgrounds, Government Dollars—and Schools?, 131 Harvard Law Review, 133–169 (2017).
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