[Guest post by DRJ]
The ACLU and the Bush Administration are “on the same side” in a religious freedom case:
“The Justice Department is joining the American Civil Liberties Union in backing a student who lost his state-funded merit-based scholarship because he left college to serve a two-year church mission.
The department’s Civil Rights Division filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in U.S. District Court in Charleston on behalf of David Haws, a student at West Virginia University. Haws, a Mormon, is suing a state scholarship board, alleging it violated his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion. His attorney argues that by denying Haws’ request for a leave of absence, the board forced him to choose between his religion and his scholarship through a state program, known as PROMISE.
The Justice Department noted that the PROMISE Board grants deferments for military and community service, and that by denying a deferral for religious purposes, the board was placing a lower value on religious deferments.”
Understatement quote of the day:
“Haws’ attorney, John Matthews of the West Virginia chapter of the ACLU, said he was surprised by the federal government’s support. “Obviously you don’t always see or think of the ACLU and the Bush administration being on the same side,” he said.”
This case may ultimately be decided on narrow grounds. For instance, it’s conceivable the Court’s holding will be limited so that it essentially applies only to missionary students. I’ve only read the press reports but I think it has the potential to end up as a legally significant case on the issue of freedom of religion.