Posted by: Jay | August 25, 2007

ACLU backs a Mormon

ACLU, Justice support lawsuit by LDS student

Published: August 25, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Justice Department is joining the American Civil Liberties Union in backing a student who lost his state-funded merit-based scholarship because he left college to serve a two-year church mission.The department’s Civil Rights Division filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in U.S. District Court in Charleston on behalf of David Haws, a student at West Virginia University.

Haws, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is suing a state scholarship board, alleging it violated his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion. His attorney argues that by denying Haws’ request for a leave of absence, the board forced him to choose between his religion and his scholarship through a state program, known as PROMISE.

The Justice Department noted that the PROMISE Board grants deferments for military and community service., and that by denying a deferral for religious purposes, the board was placing a lower value on religious deferments.

Haws’ attorney, John Matthews of the West Virginia chapter of the ACLU, said he was surprised by the federal government’s support.

“Obviously you don’t always see or think of the ACLU and the Bush administration being on the same side,” he said.

An attorney for the state declined to comment.

The state’s request to dismiss Haws’ lawsuit notes that Mormon missions are encouraged, not required. Haws was “under no compulsion to choose between the tenets of his religion and continued receipt of the PROMISE scholarship,” the motion reads.

Haws, who has a 4.0 grade point average, returned to West Virginia this month after spending two years helping to improve conditions for Hispanic workers in Western states. He has re-enrolled at WVU, and the university has agreed to defer his tuition at least through November while the lawsuit is pending.

Haws’ lawsuit seeks the reinstatement of the scholarship and a change in the PROMISE Board’s scholarship policy.

Original article found here in the Deseret News

Should the ACLU have helped this return missionary?



  1. I dont think so…
    When someone DECIDE to serve a mission, must to understand the “law of exchange”, a faithful missionary will find this two years as an invaluable time full of experiences and religious growing. I do think is a fair trade. So now he decided to “return” to his prior state? The world did continued while he was serving. He never was in the dilemma of chosing between his education and his religion.

    If he understand the mission as another kind of education, then the lawsuit is not fair. He switch an education for another one, one that nowadays is not an obligation in the church.

  2. I really dislike the flavor of this lawsuit. It puts the church in the same light as so many others who see themselves as victims, and believes the world owes them. This is a shame on the LDS community. While the world may argue against our doctrine, we have a deserved image as honest people of integrity, and this suit detracts from that image.


  3. When I lived in Las Vegas the ACLU ran to an LDS members assistance too. In that case the schools wanted to have the kids wear uniforms because of positive results in California schools (i.e. decreased crime, better grades).

    However, this young lady decided that she didn’t like being told what to wear, so she wore a T-shirt with an image of the stripling warriors on it and then claimed she was being discriminated against.

    The whole thing just stunk to me. I was so irritated that the person doing it was a member of the Church and this little girl’s parents were backing her up. I felt like this one family was giving the LDS Church a black eye.

    I think the lesson is if the ACLU agrees with you, you might want to rethink what you’re doing.

  4. I don’t think that this can really be compared to the girl in Vegas. That was just poor parenting and a character flaw. College programs (ie sports) recognize missionary work and do not penalize a student athlete so the precedent is already there (somewhat).

  5. Agreed, it is different.

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