The Supreme Court is going to be deciding if a group of taxpayers has the right to sue the White House for using tax money on faith-based initiatives.
The case (Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (No. 06-157)) is brought about by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
Why should FFRF win this case? The government has been saying for years that religious groups deserve taxpayer money to provide social services. This gives religion a special standing over non-religious groups (who do not receive these funds), which is blatantly unconstitutional.
FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said the following:
“We’re challenging the creation of the White House and Cabinet-level faith-based offices and their conferences that they are holding with taxpayer money… If we don’t have standing, nobody has standing and Bush doesn’t have to answer anyone.”
Those conferences have been likened to church “revivals.”
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, also added:
“We believe that no tax money should be spent to advance religion… It’s essential that the justices uphold the principle that taxpayers can go to court when their money is being used to advance religion.”
Just for the sake of opposition, Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, has a response here.
Sekulow mischaracterizes the plaintiffs (and atheists in general) when he says:
“Time and time again, these organizations show their disdain for religiously motivated citizens.”
There is no contempt against religious people. Not by FFRF in this case, anyway. Religious people and churches are welcome to spend their own money any way they please. It’s discriminatory, however, for the government to give money to religious groups simply because they are religious in nature. What makes religious groups so much more qualified to help others? There are groups that can provide the same services without necessarily professing belief in God. Religion is not a prerequisite for goodness.
Due to the expedited nature of this particular case, oral arguments could occur early next year with a decision handed down by June.
To reiterate, victory in this case does not mean the White House must stop its faith-based programs. It simply means groups like FFRF will be able to sue in the future.
There is cause to be optimistic. This article says,
The case is one of nine lawsuits the [Freedom From Religion Foundation] has taken challenging various parts of the faith-based initiative. So far, the Foundation has won five significant victories in federal court, with four additional ongoing lawsuits, including major challenges of the infusion of faith and religion into the Department of Veteran Affairs, and at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Foundation is also awaiting judgment in its federal challenge of a 24/7 bible-based residential program at a prison in New Mexico.
Good luck to plaintiffs Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and Anne Nicol Gaylor.
Incidentally, FFRF co-presidents Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor had an enlightening conversation with Ron Reagan, atheist and son of the former president, on their radio show last week. You can download that conversation here.
[tags]Supreme Court, faith-based initiatives, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice, Dan Barker, Anne Nicol Gaylor, Ron Reagan, atheist, atheism, Christian, FFRF[/tags]