Some good news out of Missouri

A federal appeals court has ruled that a church-owned school in Missouri is not entitled to public funds to refurbish a playground.

Our good friends over at Americans United hailed the ruling:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today applauded a ruling that prohibits a church-owned preschool in Missouri from receiving a state grant to refurbish its playground.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Trinity Church of Columbia does not have a constitutional right to public funds. The church, which is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, operates a Christian preschool on its grounds. It filed suit after the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rejected its application for a grant under a program that gives qualifying organizations tax money to purchase recycled tires for resurfacing playgrounds. AmericansUnited

The DNR informed Trinity Church that the Missouri Constitution expressly forbids churches and other religious organizations from receiving any form of state aid. It also bans the state from providing assistance to religious schools. Trinity Church argued that these constitutional provisions amounted to discrimination on the basis of religion, but the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri rejected those arguments.

Today’s appeals court ruling upholds this earlier finding. Its decision notes that “[I]t is apparent that Trinity Church seeks an unprecedented ruling — that a state constitution violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause if it bars the grant of public funds to a church.”

“The court made the correct decision,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United’s associate legal director. “Churches aren’t entitled to tap the public purse to pay for their projects.”

Added AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, “Missouri’s Constitution does not discriminate against churches. It merely ensures that state government doesn’t spend taxpayer money on religion.”

Good news, indeed.

You can read AU’s entire announcement about the victory at the link below.

If you want to do more research, the case is Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley.

Via: Federal Appeals Court Says Mo. Officials Don’t Have To Give Public Aid To Columbia Church – AU

Meanwhile, in Texas….

It’s no secret that Texas is one of the epicenters of far-right lunatic thought in this country, with the anti-government Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott recently suggesting that Obama might be amassing troops in a bid to take over the state by force.

Which is why it is both amusing and annoying that, after Texas has been experiencing devastating floods, that same governor and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — the latter of whom tried to block relief funds after Hurricane Sandy — are demanding federal assistance for Texas flood victims.

Well-known cartoonist Mike  Lukovich of the Atlanta Journal Constitution has something to say about the hypocrisy of it all.


The choice is simple: treat drug addicts now, or pay for the rest of their problems later

Drug addiction fuels so many other societal ills — homelessness, mental illness, crime, child abuse and neglect, and a host of other health problems — that you would think as a society we’d have come to terms with it as a problem that requires solutions that are complex yet relatively cheap compared to what it costs us down the road. A recovering drug addict is often a better parent. A more compliant parolee. A better student. A tax-paying citizen. An employee with health insurance that pays for their health care rather then leaving taxpayers with the bill.

Yet despite simple and overwhelming scientific evidence, it is a never-ending source of confusion for me when I hear people say, “The solution is simple. Someone just needs to be smart enough to stop abusing drugs” — as if having a PhD somehow inoculates someone from being an alcoholic or coke addict.

This article from ThinkProgress highlights an acute and chronic problem:

Largely left out of the conversation, however, is access — or the lack thereof — to addiction treatment. Even though American overdose deaths surpass deaths from car accidents and other injuries, only 11 percent of the 22.7 million Americans who needed drug or alcohol treatment in 2013 actually received it, according to data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

1920s --- A close up of a young woman snorting cocaine during the 1920s. --- Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

A close up of a young woman snorting cocaine during the 1920s. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

“We know addiction treatment saves lives, reduces drug use, reduces criminal activity and improves employment,” Paul Samuels, president and director of the Legal Action Center, which advocates on behalf of people with HIV or addiction, told USA Today. “The data is there, the evidence is in, but our public policy has not caught up with the science.”

Substance abuse costs the nation more than $600 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Right now, two cents of every dollar spent to combat abuse goes to treatment, with the rest paying for hospital care, jails and courts, according to a report from a Columbia University addiction center.

Experts say that preventing addiction, rather than simply reacting to it, could have great social and health benefits that translate into cost savings, specifically when it comes to the criminal justice system. Estimates show that every dollar invested into an addiction program yields between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. Ultimately, savings will eclipse initial costs by a 12 to 1 ratio, mainly through the reduction of interpersonal conflicts, overdoses, and death.

I am just one person, and I know of several people — good, kind, funny, intelligent people who were working and paying taxes and often making the world a better place — who have died of drug-related overdoses and incidents. I think of at least one of them every day.

Every dollar an addict spends on drugs is a dollar that will most likely cost society much more in the future.

The day most of us start responding that this is a medical problem rather than an issue of character or sheer will for incarceration to “solve” but often make worse is the day we start saving money and lives.

(An aside: Yes, I know that incarceration after a drug binge has been what is widely termed as “rock bottom” for many people — the point where they know they are messed up and finally seek help. I am not implying that incarceration never works. But our personal stories are not scientific data nor proof of anything other than the fact that incarceration works — some times. But if you look at data about those same people who quit and then did not enter into any sort of counseling or treatment program to keep them safe and sober, you’d discover that the recidivism rate is dismal. The problems that brought them into substance abuse are still there, waiting in the shadows, to snag them again. Drug treatment is not simply about stopping drugs. It’s also about figuring out what caused you to start abusing in the first place and then learning to deal with those issues either psychosocially or medically or both.)

via Drug Abuse Is Soaring, But Addiction Treatment Is Hard To Find | ThinkProgress.