Locke v. Davey – Release: 2-25-2004

John Kramer
John Kramer · February 25, 2004

Washington, D.C. –The U.S. Supreme Court today turned down a request by theology student Joshua Davey to declare unconstitutional the State of Washington’s denial of scholarship funds because he was pursuing the ministry. The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice filed an amicus brief in the case, Locke v. Davey, supporting Davey on behalf of the Cato Institute, the Center for Education Reform, Citizens for Educational Freedom and the Goldwater Institute. IJ issued the following statements on the decision:

“This narrow ruling does not touch school choice programs,” said Clint Bolick, vice president of the Institute for Justice. “Indeed, the Court left open the critical question of whether a state may discriminate against religious options in neutral school choice programs, leaving that issue to be litigated another day.”

“Moreover, there is still no question that under the federal Constitution, school choice is permissible,” added Bolick, referring to the 2002 decision by the Court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris to uphold Cleveland’s school voucher program. In Zelman, the Institute defended the rights of Cleveland parents using vouchers. “This ruling will not slow the growing momentum for school choice programs across the nation.”

“The Court issued a narrow, historically based decision involving special state-level concerns that deal with funding the training of ministers,” said IJ Senior Litigator Richard Komer. “These concerns clearly are not implicated in school choice programs.”

“This decision should have no impact on our defense of Florida’s Opportunity Scholarship Program because, unlike the program at issue in Washington state, Opportunity Scholarship funds are not training anyone to be ministers,” said IJ Senior Attorney Clark Neily, who is defending the Florida program on behalf of voucher recipients in Pensacola. “The Supreme Court made it very clear that the training of ministers was the only issue presented in Locke v. Davey.

“Furthermore, the Blaine Amendments, with their notorious history of religious bigotry, had no bearing whatsoever on the Davey decision; by contrast, school choice opponents in Florida have built their entire challenge to the school choice program around the state’s Blaine Amendment,” Neily added.

The Institute is currently defending groundbreaking voucher programs in Florida and Colorado, as well as challenging the exclusion of religious options from longstanding school choice programs in Maine and Vermont.