Here are the basic facts that lead me to ask the title question:
[li]David Haws attended one year at West Virginia University (maintaining a 4.0 average) with a WV PROMISE scholarship.[/li][li]Mr. Haws then, following the norms of his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, served two years on a church mission doing good works.[/li][li]The state PROMISE Scholarship Board twice denied Mr. Haws’ request for a deferment or leave of absence and revoked his scholarship.[/li][li]According to its deferral policy, “[t]he PROMISE Board does not wish to grant personal leaves of absence for any reason.” They may, at their discretion, make exceptions for Medical Leave, Family Medical Leave or Bereavement Leave, Military Leave, and “Other Unforeseen Leave”.[/li][/ul]
Mr. Haws’ request doesn’t seem to fall under any of the recognized exceptions. (It was not unforeseen.) The Board’s position is they want to avoid “the potential for abuse by students who would use this type of leave for personal vacations.” I guess a student could claim his Church of the Holy Hangover requires him to spend a year in Puerto Vallarta though that’s clearly not the case here. If the Board established an exception for Mormon missionaries, would they be in an awkward position of defining what is a legitimate church activity? Would doing so be unfair to students of other faiths?
ISTM the Board probably could define a policy that accommodated Mr. Haws without accommodating any one religion. I doubt the existing policy was intended to deny any student the convictions of their faith. However, should the Board be required to look for such an accommodation? And how would you protect against abuse?
PS. The news today is that WVU will re-admit Mr. Haws and defer his tuition until his lawsuit against the PROMISE Scholarship Board is resolved.