Locke v. Davey Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Facts of the case

“The Washington State Promise Scholarship, created by the state legislature in 1999, gives college scholarship money to talented students. However, this money cannot be used to obtain a degree in theology if the program is taught to cause belief. Washington’s constitution prohibits funding religious instruction. The 1969 state code applied this ban to college financial aid.Joshua Davey forfeited his Promise Scholarship money in order to major in pastoral ministries at a private Christian college. Davey filed suit in U.S. district court, claiming the state constitution’s ban on funding religious instruction violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion (in the U.S. Constitution). The district court rejected Davey’s claim. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, concluding Davey’s free exercise rights were violated.”



  • Answer


  • 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.”


    The United States Supreme Court held that, while the federal constitution did not preclude the election of religious instruction using government assistance, the State’s broader prohibition reflected its substantial interest against the establishment of religion by funding devotional degrees, and the prohibition was not violative of the federal constitution since the exclusion of such funding placed a relatively minor burden on the student. That the State dealt differently with education for the ministry than with education for other callings was not evidence of hostility toward religion, especially since the scholarship program did not prohibit attendance at religious institutions or a curriculum which included devotional theology courses.

    • Case Brief: 2004
    • Petitioner: Gary Locke, Governor of Washington, et al.
    • Respondent: Joshua Davey
    • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

    Citation: 540 US 712 (2004)
    Granted May 19, 2003
    Argued: Dec 2, 2003
    Decided: Feb 25, 2004