Recent Developments in the Law-Supreme Court

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Final Decision

DOCKET NO.: 02-1315

NAME: Locke v. Davey

DATE: Feb. 25, 2004

Student who received a state scholarship sued the state under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 when he learned that he could not use his scholarship to pursue a devotional theology degree. The state scholarship program, in accordance with the state constitution, may not be used to pursue a degree in devotional theology. The student contends that this restriction violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The court of appeals concluded that the State had singled out religion for unfavorable treatment and thus the exclusion of theology majors from the scholarship program must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest, which the court did not find. Held: The Supreme Court found that the State 's scholarship program was constitutional.

The Supreme Court distinguished this case from that in Lukumi. In that case a city ordinance made it a crime to engage in certain kinds of animal slaughter. The law, the court's found sought to suppress ritualistic animal sacrifices of the Santeria religion. In this case no criminal or civil sanctions are imposed on any type of religious practice. The State is not denying ministers the right to participate in the political affairs of the community, nor is it requiring students to choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit.

The Court found that on a close look at the history of the scholarship program and the laws surrounding it, there was no evidence of animus towards religion in the scholarship program. Students are able to use the scholarships at accredited religious schools and are still eligible to take devotional theology classes. The exclusion of devotional theology majors upholds a legitimate state interest, that of preventing the establishment of a religion by the state. Throughout the history of the United States prohibitions against using tax payer's funds to support the ministry has been a hallmark of constitutional jurisprudence. Therefore the State's interest in denying the funding of devotional theology degrees is a compelling state interest and thus the scholarship program does not violate the student's First Amendment rights. Locke v. Davey, 124 S.Ct. 1307 (2004).

Review Denied

Decisions with written opinions in the Court of Appeals:

DOCKET NO.: 03-795

NAME: Community Action Project of Tulsa County v. Dubbs

DATE: Feb. 23, 2004

Parents of eight pre-school children enrolled in the Head Start program sued the agency for violating their children's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when the children were subjected to intrusive physical examinations without parental consent. The parents claimed that the examinations (including genital examinations and blood tests) were conducted after the agency falsely represented to medical personnel that parental consent forms had been obtained for each of the children. Held: Court of Appeals found that the agency violated the children's constitutional rights. The court found that the examinations, absent parental consent, constituted a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and thus were unconstitutional unless they were performed with a warrant or parental consent. A close look at the paperwork revealed that none of the forms signed by the parents gave the agency explicit authorization to conduct the examinations of the children. Dubbs v. Community Action Project of Tulsa County, 336 F.3d 1194 (10th Cir. 2003), cert, denied, Community Action Project of Tulsa County v. Dubbs, 124 S.Ct. 1411 (2004).

DOCKET NO: 03-936

NAME: Melzer v. New York City Board of Education

DATE: Feb. …