The Catholic University of America
Religious Education Institutions
Legal Issues of Interest

State ex rel. Mary Gallwey v. Daniel K. Grimm, No. 68565-7, Supreme Court of the State of Washington, June 13th, 2002

In this decision, the Supreme Court of Washington held the Washington Equal Opportunity Grant (EOG) Program does not violate article IX, section 4 of the Washington State Constitution, as this provision of the Constitution does not apply to institutions of higher education. The Court further held that the EOG program does not violate article 1, section 11 of the Washington State Constitution or the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 1990, the Washington State Legislature created a program for grants of to $2,500 per year to prospective upper division college students as an incentive to help them complete a baccalaureate degree at schools (including private sectarian institutions of higher education) with existing capacity. Applicants were required to have an associate of arts degree at their enrolling institution, live in an eligible county, have sufficient financial need, and be 'placebound.' [1]

This program was created to respond to a 1988 University of Washington study that found the following:

· Washington's participation rate for upper division course work was 10 percent below the national average;

· the State's largest population growth was occurring in areas surrounding Seattle that were not served by a public university; and

· there was a significant disparity in access to upper division course work based on geography.

As part of the application to the program, students were required to sign statements that they understood the college was not to require EOG students to enroll in any program that included religious instruction, worship, or exercise. The universities were also required to sign statements certifying as follows:

· The student will not be required by the institution to be involved in any educational program that includes any religious worship, exercise, or instruction;

· The student will not, for the duration of the academic year during which the grant is disbursed, be enrolled for any classes that include any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or be pursuing a degree in religion, seminarian, or theological academic studies; and further,

· The student is precluded by the institution, for the duration of the award period during which the grant is disbursed, from enrolling in any classes determined by the institution to include any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or from pursuing a degree in religion, seminarian, or theological academic studies.

In addition, private institutions were required to disburse the funds directly to the student rather than automatically placing funds in the student's account at the school. These provisions were intended to dispel any contention that public money would be used for sectarian purposes.

The state of Washington's Constitutional mandate against church and state intermingling is considered "stricter" than the U.S. Constitutional mandate. Article IX, section 4 of the Washington State Constitution reads as follows:

"All schools maintained or supported wholly or in part by the public funds shall be forever free from sectarian control or influence. "

The trial court had found that the above provision was not intended to apply to institutions of higher education, but felt bound to invalidate the program based on previous higher court rulings.

The Supreme Court reviewed the "abundance of structural and historical evidence available" and agreed with the trial court that institutions of higher education were not covered by this provision of the constitution. Significantly, the Supreme Court further ruled that earlier decisions (Weiss v. Bruno, 82 Wn.2d 199, 509 P.2d 973 (1973) and State Higher Education Assistance Authority v. Graham, 84 Wn.2d 813, 529 P.2d 1051 (1974)) were overuled to the extent they conflicted with the holding.

The state's EOG program assists approximately 1,000 students per year. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and NAICU were among the groups filing amici briefs in support of the State of Washington Program.

created June 18th, 2002

[1] A placebound student is one who 'because of family or employment commitments, health concerns, financial consideration, or similar factors, {is} unlikely to complete the junior or senior year of a baccalaureate degree without enhanced financial assistance.'1 Clerk's Papers (CP) at 1081; RCW 28B.101.020.