Washington, D.C.- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled overwhelmingly against assistance for a student studying to be a member of the Clergy.
With only Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting, the court ruled 7-2 in the case originally brought by Joshua Davey, who was denied a Promise Scholarship to attend a small Pentecostal college in Washington in 1999 after he declared an intention to major in business administration and pastoral ministries.
The court said that Washington state's Promise Scholarship program, which offers cash assistance to all academically qualified low-income college students as long as they are not majoring in theology, does not unlawfully discriminate against prospective clergy or violate their First Amendment right to religious freedom.
The Program "imposes neither criminal nor civil sanctions on any type of religious service or rite," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote in the opinion for the court. "It does not deny to ministers the right to participate in the political affairs of the community. And it does not require students to choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit."
The ruling may have broad implications in the battle over school vouchers, a plan to allow parents to take their children out of public school and apply the money that the public system would have spent on the child to the tuition for private - and often religious - schools.
Also, the impact this ruling may have on President Bush’s initiative for faith-based community programs remains to be seen.