The implications of Supreme Court decisions are often in the eye of the beholder. That observation was borne out recently by discussions of legal scholars and a White House official on the court’s latest major church-state decision. Yet, on balance, the ruling seemed to replace a few bricks in the wall of separation.
The decision by a surprising 7-2 margin February 25 appeared to bolster provisions in state constitutions that bar direct state support of religious education. However, the faith-based initiative programs of the Bush administration were said by a key advocate to be unaffected by the ruling.
With Chief Justice William Rehnquist writing the majority opinion in the Locke v. Davey case from the state of Washington, the court ruled that the First Amendment permits—but does not require—states to fund scholarships to religious schools. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.