MICHIGAN -- The Michigan Senate has passed a bill that allows students who are majoring in theology, divinity, or any religion-related education to receive state scholarships. Now the bill is waiting for the approval by the Michigan House.
Currently under Michigan law, students who are studying theology were ineligible for state scholarships.
"The attention brought to the legislation by Teresa Becker's case made some people sit back and look at why, in heaven's name, any state would have an interest in penalizing a student because they decided to study religion," Pat Gillen, an attorney from Thomas More Law Center, said. "Thankfully, it looks like the Michigan Senate is going to get the ball rolling in terms of changing that invidious discrimination."
Gillen is representing Teresa Becker, a student at Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti who sued state officials for rejecting her financial aid because of her major which was theology. Becker’s case will be observed after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in a similar case, Locke v. Davey, which is expected by the end of June.
Opponents claim state scholarships for theology students violate the so-called "separation of Church and State."
Gillen believes regardless of the outcome in Michigan, state legislatures must act. He said, "It's very necessary for state legislatures to remove these onerous restrictions so that a student isn't faced with a situation where [he or she] could actually be deprived of their rights and not know it.”