Locke v. Davey - Wikipedia

Locke v. Davey
Argued December 2, 2003
Decided February 25, 2004
Full case nameGary Locke, Governor of Washington, et al., Petitioners v. Joshua Davey
Citations540 U.S. 712 (more)
124 S. Ct. 1307; 158 L. Ed. 2d 1; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 1626; 72 U.S.L.W. 4206; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 163
Case history
A Washington publicly funded scholarship program which excluded students pursuing a "degree in theology" does not violate the Free Exercise Clause.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
MajorityRehnquist, joined by Stevens, O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
DissentScalia, joined by Thomas
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I

Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), is a United States Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of a Washington publicly funded scholarship program which excluded students pursuing a "degree in devotional theology."[1] This case examined the "room ... between the two Religion Clauses", the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the opinion of the court, with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting.


Davey enrolled in Northwest College and received a Promise Scholarship. But when he declared a double major in pastoral ministries and business management/administration, his scholarship was revoked.[2] Davey was given the opportunity to continue under the scholarship but without the pastoral ministries major, but he refused.

The scholarship[edit]

In 1999, the state of Washington legislature created a scholarship, the Promise Scholarship. The scholarships were for $1,125 per year and were funded through the State's general fund. They were available for qualified students who enrolled for "at least half time in an eligible postsecondary institution in the state of Washington", but excluded study in theology. This was because the Washington State Constitution specifically states that "No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction."[3]

The scholarship was available to any graduate of a Washington public or private high school. The student must be in the top 15%, receive a score of 1,200 or higher on the SAT, or score higher than a 27 on the American College Test. In addition, the student's family's income must be less than 135% of the median.


The statute was upheld.[1] The Court held that there was nothing "inherently constitutionally suspect" in the denial of funding for vocational religious instruction. Even if there were, Washington had a "substantial state interest" in not funding "devotional degrees."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mawdsley, James (May 3, 2018). "Locke v. Davey". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  2. ^ "Scholarship - God Dispute". CBS News. June 8, 2004. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  3. ^ Article I, Section 11

Further reading[edit]

  • Green, Steven K. (2004). "Locke v. Davey and the Limits to Neutrality Theory". Temple Law Review. 77 (4): 913–956.

External links[edit]