Austin-Just this morning, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of three theological seminaries in a landmark religious freedoms lawsuit challenging government interference in seminary operations. The decision in the case of HEB Ministries, Inc., et al. v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, et al., overturns two lower court opinions and a Texas law which gave the state power over seminaries and their training of pastors and religious leaders for the ministry. The state had fined the Tyndale Theological Seminary $173,000.
“This decision is a huge victory for all seminaries not only in Texas but nationwide. The state has no authority or competence to control the training of pastors and ministers, and the Supreme Court rightly held so,” said Liberty Legal Institute Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford, who argued the case along with attorney Shelby Sharpe before the high court.
Liberty Legal Institute filed suit on behalf of the Tyndale Theological Seminary in 1999, after the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board told the seminary that it would be fined as punishment for issuing theological degrees and for calling itself a ‘seminary’ without seeking government approval of its curriculum, professors and board. The Hispanic Bible Institute in San Antonio and the Southern Bible Institute in Dallas, institutions which train Hispanic and African-American pastors, joined the suit later because they were also prevented from calling themselves seminaries or issuing theological degrees without state approval and control.
Justice Hecht announced the judgment of the Court in today’s ruling, holding that the State of Texas’ requirement for seminaries to meet certain standards before calling themselves a ‘seminary’ or offering degrees in theology “impermissibly intrudes upon religious freedom protected by the United States and Texas Constitutions.”
Eight justices agreed in part with the opinion delivered with four Justices signing on to concurrences as well.
“This ruling now gives freedom to many small seminaries that had been quashed by an attempted government takeover of religious teaching and training. We’re thrilled,” said Kelly Shackelford. “This is a landmark decision and a huge victory for religious freedom.”
The Liberty Legal Institute is a legal organization committed to the defense of religious freedoms and First Amendment rights. For more information, visit our website at www.libertylegal.org. To set up an interview, or to obtain a copy of the decision, please call Nicole Hay at (972) 423-3131 or e-mail email@example.com.