Sep 15, 2011

In 1992, Congress established a Program to Encourage Public and Community Service for former military personnel. Under this program, former military personnel can earn credit toward their retirement by working at public- or community-service organizations. The credits enable the former members of the military to receive larger pension payments when they retire. 

A federal regulation, however, prohibits participants from receiving government compensation for religious instruction, worship, or proselytization. A retired Air Force Sergeant named Linden Bowman requested credit for work he performed at a church as a lay intern and youth pastor. The military denied credit for this religious work.

In response, Bowman sued in federal court in Cleveland, alleging that the military regulation excluding religious work violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. After the trial court upheld the regulation and dismissed his complaint, Bowman appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

We filed an amicus brief, in March 2008, asking the Court of Appeals to uphold the trial court's decision. Our brief explained that the Constitution does not require the government to subsidize religious activity. Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser presented oral argument before the court in October 2008.

In December 2008, the Sixth Circuit upheld the trial court’s decision to dismiss Bowman's lawsuit, citing our brief favorably in its opinion.