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Religious freedom

The next church-state issue that the high court will hear is that of a Washington man denied a state scholarship because he planned to use the money to study for a theology degree. Joshua Davey, a student at Northwest College in Kirkland, Washington, won a $1,125 state "Promise Scholarship" in 1999. When he declared a double major in business administration and pastoral ministries at the sectarian college, the school did not forward his name to the state to receive the scholarship because of Washington's Blaine Amendment.  Named for James G. Blaine, thirty-seven states originally adopted these nineteenth-century constitutional amendments that strictly prohibit the use of state funds for any religious purpose.  Sixteen states still have Blaine or Blaine-like amendments, and at least fourteen also declare that theology students are not eligible for state scholarships.

These laws are now seen as at least partially vulnerable in the wake of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), which held that state-funded tuition vouchers may go toward parochial school tuition as one of several options for parents and students. Also, in Witters v. Washington Department of Services for the Blind (1986), as well as in Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District (1993), the Court held that vocational rehabilitation money could be used to pay tuition to a Christian college to prepare a visually handicapped person for the ministry, and that public aid for a sign-language interpreter could not be denied to a student at a parochial school.  Should the Court strike down the Washington statute, it would also nullify all remaining Blaine Amendments, themselves remnants of the virulent anti-Catholicism of the nineteenth century. Locke v. Davey.



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