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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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February 26, 2004

Devices and desires

"Training someone to lead a congregation is an essentially religious endeavor," Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in a 7-2 decision upholding this state's decision not to finance theological education with public scholarship money. A good call.

The distinction rides on the difference between religion and theology courses in college. The former explore religious beliefs of all faiths, or selected faiths in depth. The latter is brand-specific inquiry into a particular system of worship with the idea of propagating that faith and embracing a religious calling.

A college degree in religion is wholly different than preparing for the ministry, and taxpayers should not have to pay for it. The Supreme Court wisely left that decision up to the states.

The Spokane student who brought the case eventually graduated with a degree in religion and philosophy. He is now enrolled in Harvard Law School. He was not exactly ground asunder by the jack-booted heel of the state.

He remains free to steer back toward a life in the ministry. The only expectation is that he foots the bills, and not the taxpayers of Washington. Or, roughly, the same deal he has with Harvard.

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Posted by Lance Dickie at February 26, 2004 02:41 PM



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