Locke v. Davey Case Brief

Summary of Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004)

Facts: State of WA est Promise Scholarship Program to provide financial assistance to certain college students. Under the state constitution, if student is seeking a degree in theology that student is ineligible.

Issue(s): Whether WA constitution or the aid program can exclude students seeking a college degree in devotional theology w/o violating the Free Exercise Cl?

Holding: Exclusion of students seeking a degree in theology from benefits under state collegiate aid program does not violate the Free Exercise Clause.

Procedure: Davey (student) sued governor and state edu Bd; D.Ct granted Summary to Df; Ct of App Reversed. U.S.S.Ct. Reversed.

Rule(s): 1st and 14th

Rationale: WA has interpreted its constitution as prohibiting not only direct but indirect funding of religious instruction with public funds. Under Hileaha state aid program is presumptively UnConst’l when it is not facially neutral toward religion.

However, Hileah dealt with criminal law, and here WA is only expressing a disfavor in using public funds to finance religious instruction. WA does not require students to make a choice between religion and receipt of educational aid. The state has elected not to finance a specific area of instruction.

Training for a religious profession and training for secular professions are not interchangeable b/c training someone to become a leader of a congregation is a religious undertaking.

Hx most states have attempted to avoid any funding that would support the ministry, or clergy, by constitutional provision. This program does not reflect a hostility toward religion since it permits students to attend accredited religious schools, and student can receive aid if they take theological classes.

The denial of funding for vocational religious instruction alone is not inherently suspect. W/o presumption of UnConst’ly, the student’s claim must fail. WA’s interest in not providing public funds to those seeking theological degrees is substantial and the burden the exclusion places on candidates under the program is minor.

DISSENT: If the two clauses demand neutrality, then it must hold true in hard cases and easy ones. WA has other options available to ensure neutrality. Yet, WA’s int is merely a philosophical preference: ‘freedom of conscience.’ The Court has not required proof of Subst’l harm in other discrimination cases and it should not do so here. The Court does not explain why the legislative motive regarding hostility toward religion matters. Legis intent is used to i/d subtle discrimination, as a supplement the guarantee of facially equal treatment, not a replacement.

Theology encompasses both secular and religious inquiry.



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