Supreme Court Case To Test States' Ability To Refuse To Pay For Religious Training

High Court Should Uphold Taxpayers' Right To Avoid Subsidizing Theology Students, Says Americans United

The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold the right of states to refuse to pay for the training of theology students, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The high court announced May 19 that it would hear a dispute from Washington state involving a theology student who wanted a state grant to study to become a minister. State officials, citing provisions in the Washington Constitution barring tax support for religion, refused.

"People who want to enter the ministry should pay their own way, not hand the bill over to the taxpayer," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "This case could open the floodgates to massive taxpayer funding of religious institutions."

A federal appeals court ruled last year that Washington's refusal to pay for the religious training of Joshua Davey, a theology major at Northwest College, an Assemblies of God school in Kirkland, Wash., amounts to discrimination.

AU's Lynn said the Supreme Court should overturn that decision. "For more than 200 years, religion in America has been funded with voluntary contributions," Lynn said. "Many states want to keep it that way and should have the right to shield people from paying the equivalent of a religion tax."

Continued Lynn, "The bottom line here is simple: Muslims should pay to train Imams, Roman Catholics should pay to train priests and Jews should pay to train rabbis. The government shouldn't pay to train any member of the clergy."

Davey's case is being litigated by the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson. The organization works in the courts to undermine the separation of church and state.

"Americans need to be aware of what's really going on here," said AU's Lynn. "Pat Robertson and his allies are trying to force taxpayers to support religion. Their ultimate goal is to convince the Supreme Court to abandon church-state separation entirely."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.