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Brief Fact Summary.
A student was awarded a grant for school and was not allowed to use those funds for a devotional degree.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A state may have a facially discriminatory practice against the Free Exercise clause as long as there is a substantial and historical state interest in doing so.
The State of Washington has a program called the Promise Scholarship Program. It gives funding to academically gifted students for postsecondary education. There is a rule that students may not use the funds for a solely devotional training. The student is allowed to attend a religious school and take religious classes, just not obtain a degree in those studies. Davey brought suit stating this exception to funding was a violation of his right of Free Exercise of Religion.
Whether an exclusion from Scholarship funding that states it may not be used for solely devotional training is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
No. There is a fine balance between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. This country was built on the premises that religious leaders would not be afforded tax payers monies. Along with that meant that any government funding should not be given to religious instruction. The program has a rule that is not facially neutral towards the Establishment Clause. We find the state has a substantial interest in not funding such degrees and does so with minor burden on these students.
Once the state makes a public benefit, it can not then exclude that benefit only for the sole purpose of religion. That is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause. The court focuses on hostility; motive is irrelevant when a rule facially discriminates against a protected group. While it is true the state has interest in not giving clergy tax payer’s money, it is different to state where financial aid for students will go.
The state having rules against funding religious does not mean it has hostilities towards religion. There history behind this country’s battle with church and state certainly justifies the separation of the two.