Well, I’m not sure that the state is totally free to deny a scholarship to whomever they want simply because it’s a “gift”. If the scholarship was simply not available to Mormons, or if there was some rule attached to accepting it that really made it difficult for a Mormon to practice their religion I’d agree with the ACLU here.
But the no forseen absences condition doesn’t fit that criteria. The student could’ve easily made adjustments to his plans and been able to both accept the scholarship and go on his mission.
Well, this maybe an area of contention. The WV PROMISE Scholarship is strictly a merit-based program created by the state’s legislature. If you meet the eligibility requirements it seems very much like having a legal right to the scholarship. The lawsuit seems to be claiming that the renewal requirements amount to a discriminatory policy (or perhaps a discriminatory law. I’ll do some digging to see how much of the policy comes from the legislation.)
I wouldn’t even go that far. I’m a textualist when reading the constitution, so as long as the state of West Virginia doesn’t establish an official religion, or prohibit by law the free exercise of religion (e.g. A $200 fine and six months in prison for believing in Mormonism) then it is free to do whatever else it wants with regards to religion.
If you are going to make a 14th amendment equal protection argument, then you could say that this scholarship denies equal rights to stupid kids who only had a 1.6GPA.
I also know that the courts do not hold my view. So, as you said, a Mormon is free to do his mission work at any time before or after college, or not do it at all. It’s not an integral part of that faith.
And what about the OP talking about the Church of the Holy Hangover. I know it sounds ludicrous, but it would put the state in a position of saying, “Okay, X, Y, and Z, are official relgions, but A, B, and C are not” Isn’t that exactly what the first amendment prohibits?
My religion doesn’t say that I have a right to your money. If it did, and it also said I have a right to sue you for it, I suppose that the state has an obligation to have a trial. Unless, of course my religion says I have a right to win a lawsuit, in which case I suppose they should just send the sheriff over to your place to pick up my money.
There isn’t really a functional difference between a 200 dollar fine and taxing everyone the same and then giving everyone who isn't a Mormon 200 though. What about if the state of W Virginia decided they wouldn’t allow firemen to fight fires in Mormon temples or allow them to use public roads anymore. I would say that at some point (though I agree not in the OP’s case) withholding state services can create a huge disincentive for people to publicly associate themselves with the religious group in question and is equivalent to prohibiting free exercise.
I just don’t see religious discrimination in any of these laws, rules, or policies. What if my religion required me to tithe so much I couldn’t pay my taxes. Should I be exempt from the taxes or should the church policy suffer? I say the church policy has to suffer.
I don’t know about the ACLU, maybe they are trying to get some cred from the right. As for the Fed, I’d guess it’s because Mormons have made it their job to get into bureaucratic positions within the federal government.
Point #1: You are right. That is why we have judges. They would see such a scheme ($200 rebate to non-Mormons) as, in effect, a fine on Mormons and rightfully strike it down.
Point #2: I would also strike down the “no fighting fires” and “banning Mormon’s on public roads” not on 1st amendment freedom of religion grounds, but on 14th amendment equal protection grounds. Mormons pay the same taxes to support the fire department and public roads as anyone else, and as such, cannot be denied the equal protection of these services.
In this case, however, the applicant is asking for a special exemption, above and beyond, what anyone else may get.
I would also agree in part that if a state created a “huge disincentive” against belonging to a particular religion it would be tantamount to prohibiting the free exercise of religion ONLY IF a judge or jury found that the huge disincentive served no other purpose than to harass that religion.