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He will go down in history as the losing party in a landmark Supreme Court case, but that hasn’t dulled Harvard Law School student Joshua Davey’s enthusiasm for the law. His five-year effort to overturn a law that denies state funds to theology students came to an end in February, when the Court ruled against him by a 7-2 margin. But Davey returns to D.C. this summer to work for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, performing, as Davey puts it, the “usual 1L legal tasks.” The Becket Fund filed an amicus brief on Davey’s behalf during the case. Davey initially sued the state of Washington in 1999 when he was denied a Promise Scholarship because he chose to major in pastoral studies at Northwest College. Washington law prohibits state scholarships from funding students who major in theology on the premise that such funding violates the constitutional separation of church and state. Despite the fact that the scholarship was only for $1,125 and he “wasn’t really desperate for the money,” Davey disagreed with the law and felt that he was in a position to effect change. Although he went into college with the full intention of becoming a minister, Davey eventually began to set his sights on law as his case unfolded. “It was a gradual change, and it had a lot to do with watching the attorneys on my case,” he says. “Seeing them live their faith through their work in the law was inspiring, and it got me thinking about what it meant to be a Christian. I realized there were more ways than the ministry to live my faith, and a lot of the same reasons I initially wanted to go into the ministry were the same reasons I was thinking about law.” Davey ended up dropping his pastoral studies track. “Instead, I majored in religion and philosophy,” he says. “It gave me a tremendous set of intellectual skills that I’m now using in law school. I’ve found that I use the same skills to interpret the law that I used to interpret scripture.” When Davey entered Harvard Law School in fall 2003, his case was set to be heard by the Supreme Court in a matter of months. However, reaction at Harvard was subdued; most students didn’t realize Davey was even involved in the case until he was out of class for the oral arguments in December. “There are so many people who do amazing things at Harvard. What’s one more guy in the news?” Davey jokes. Davey recalls attending a panel discussion last year featuring Harvard professors speaking about upcoming Supreme Court cases. “The whole panel predicted I would win,” he says. “Turns out they were all wrong.” In the end, the Court found that states may withhold state scholarship funds from theology students. Ironically, given his revised career plans, the Court ruled against Davey in part because, it said, the founding fathers had been adamant that state funds not be used for “the religious education of future ministers.” Although he says he’d like to do First Amendment work eventually, he’d like to try his hand at other areas of law first. “I’d really like to clerk right after law school,” he says. “And then I’d like to do corporate litigation with a firm.” His work at the Becket Fund will be in conjunction with the Alliance Defense Fund’s Blackstone Fellowship, a nine-week summer leadership development program in law and ministry for “exceptionally capable and highly motivated Christian law students.”

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