The administration, in briefs filed this week, said states that set up general scholarship programs cannot deny money to those who want to study for ministry careers.
"Such a stigmatizing religious classification is prohibited by the First Amendment and inconsistent with our traditions," Solicitor General Theodore Olson wrote, referring to the U.S. Constitution..
Also this week at the high court, the California father who wants the words "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance asked Justice Antonin Scalia to stay out of the case because of public remarks made earlier this year at a religious event.
Michael Newdow, a Sacramento doctor and atheist, said in a court filing that Scalia violated conduct rules that prevent judges from discussing the merits of cases, and that there are questions about his impartiality. The court is expected to consider whether to hear appeals involving the pledge during a closed-door session on Sept. 29.
Justices have not yet said when they will hear arguments in the scholarship case.
Olson said that Washington state's scholarship program is unconstitutional because it treats people who want to study theology at religious schools differently than other students.
The history of Washington's ban on state spending for religious classes stems from opposition in the 19th century to the Roman Catholic church, Olson said, which "provides all the more reason to reject any reliance on the provision here as a means of justifying the discriminatory treatment." More than 30 states have amendments similar to Washington's.