Theology Student Sues State over Scholarship Revocation
Billups, Andrea, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Spokane student Joshua Davey is determined to become a minister.
A high school valedictorian who made perfect grades, Mr. Davey, now 19, earned a badly needed, state-funded scholarship to the state of Washington's Northwest College, a small private school in Kirkland, affiliated with the Assemblies of God.
Shortly after Mr. Davey started freshman classes last fall, state education officials withdrew his financial-aid award, saying his decision to major in religion violates a new policy under the state constitution's mandate of separation of church and state.
Mr. Davey, who was forced to work 25 hours per week clearing tables in a local restaurant to pay for his full-time course load, has since filed a lawsuit, charging that the state has been heavy-handed in applying the establishment clause, discriminating against religion and trampling on his federal rights.
"Does the state of Washington's Constitution trump the national Constitution, which protects religious speech? I think it's pretty obvious that it does not," argues attorney Kevin Theriot of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm that has taken up Mr. Davey's case.
"The state is free to provide for greater separation of church and state, as long as that doesn't infringe upon rights ensured by the federal Constitution, like free speech and the right to free exercise of religion," Mr. Theriot said.
Carolyn Busch, executive policy adviser to Washington Gov. Gary Locke, acknowledges that her state's constitution "has a very strict separation of church and state," particularly in its education system.
Mr. Davey, she adds, was an exemplary student who qualified for and earned the state's Promise Scholarship, a new program for high-achieving, low-income students developed by Mr. Locke. State education officials, she said, were simply upholding the state's constitution when they revoked the scholarship, something they are bound to do.
"It was simply a matter of his choice of degree that excluded him from eligibility for state financial aid," she said. …