ANN ARBOR, December 2, 2003 ( – The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a significant case involving the religious freedom of college students who receive state scholarships.  The case grew out of a dispute between Joshua Davey, the recipient of a state scholarship, and the state of Washington after Davey chose Pastoral Ministry as a double major along with Business Management/Administration.  Because he chose to study Pastoral Ministry, Davey was stripped of his state scholarship.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan filed a brief in support of Davey because it is involved in a similar case pending against Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on behalf of Ave Maria College student Teresa M. Becker.  Becker, who had been receiving financial assistance through Michigan’s Competitive Scholarship Program for the past two years, was stripped of that scholarship when she declared a major in Theology.  At issue in the Michigan case is a state statute that expressly prohibits distribution of scholarship funds to students who major in “theology, divinity or religious education”.  A federal district judge ruled in July that Michigan’s law constitutes “unlawful viewpoint discrimination” and that Becker will likely win her case pending the decision of the Supreme Court in the upcoming Davey case.  The Law Center brief filed in the Davey case with the Supreme Court argued that the State of Washington’s policy wrongly disqualifies students from receiving scholarship funds if they choose to major in theology taught in a way the State of Washington deems unacceptable.  The brief further pointed out that this view rests upon an arbitrary and perverse assumption that the few thousand dollars a student receives will be used to pay for Theology instruction-as opposed to the countless secular expenses a student incurs in pursuing their undergraduate degree.

See the ABC coverage of the case: