Wednesday, April 18, 2007

City-Backed Financing For St. Louis U. Arena OK Under State Constitution

City-backed financing for St. Louis University's new basketball arena survived a state constitutional challenge yesterday as the Missouri Supreme Court held that the Jesuit-backed University is not "controlled by a religious creed" as that term is used in Art. IX, Sec. 8 of Missouri's constitution. In St. Louis University v. The Masonic Temple Association of St. Louis, (MO Sup. Ct., April 17, 2007), the court held that the constitutional ban on appropriating funds to support any educational institution controlled by any religious creed was not violated by the "tax increment financing" provided by the city of St. Louis. A mere historical link to a particular religion does not amount to control. Here, while the SLU's president is a Jesuit, "he is bound by the decisions of an independent, lay board of trustees". The religious component does not dictate the institution's oversight and administration. The court also rejected federal establishment clause challenges to the financing.

Judge Teitelman, dissenting, argued that a determination of religious control should be made only after the facts are developed at trial, rather than at the summary judgement stage as the majority does here. He also argued that, contrary to the majority's holding, an institution could be controlled by a religious creed even if proselytism is not one of its primary purposes. The Associated Press reported on the decision yesterday. (See prior related posting.)