Washington State gave out
college scholarships to worthy students.
The scholarships could be
used to study anything the student wanted to study, except for theology.
Washington State was
worried about violating the 1st Amendment'sEstablishment Clause.
Davey qualified for a
scholarship, but was declared ineligible because he wanted to study
Davey sued Washington,
claiming that the denial was unconstitutional under the 1st
Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.
The Trial Court reversed.
The Trial Court found that
providing funding to students to study theology would violate the Establishment
The Appellate Court found for
Davey. Washington appealed.
The Appellate Court found
that the denial interfered with Davey's constitutional right to free
exercise of religion.
The US Supreme Court reversed
and found that Washington did not have to fund religious instruction.
The US Supreme Court found
that not funding religious instruction was not an infringement on Davey's
right to free exercise of religion.
Washington didn't do
anything to prohibit religion,
they just chose not to actively support it.
Davey was not put in a
worse position because of the Washington law, he just was not placed in
a better position.
The Court found that
Washington State had a substantial State interest in not funding
religious education, and that was good enough to be constitutional.
In a dissent it was argued
that the Washington was discriminatory on its face, and thus must be
subject to strict scrutiny review.
See Church of the Lukumi
Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (508
U.S. 520 (1993)).
In this case, the US Supreme
Court tried to reconcile the Establishment Clause with the Free Exercise Clause. The basic rule is that the government is not
allowed to do anything to actively hurt religious practice, but they
cannot be required to do anything to actively help religious practice
Compare to Cutter v.
Wilkinson (544 U.S. 709 (2005)),
where the Court found that the government must actively make
accommodations for prisoners to practice their religions. The difference
is that people in prison are limited in their freedom, and so would be
unable to practice if the government didn't actively help them.