Nearly four months ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation was in the Supreme Court. Their case was over the issue of whether taxpayers had standing to sue the government when it supported religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.
Today, the Supreme Court handed down its decision: “Taxpayers have no right to challenge discretionary spending by the executive branch” (according to a press release from Americans United for Separation of Church and State).
“However,” [Americans United Executive Director Rev. Barry] Lynn continued, “it is important to note that this ruling applies to only a few situations. Most church-state lawsuits, including those that challenge congressional appropriations for faith-based programs, will not be affected.”
The full decision can be found here (PDF).
Greg Stohr writes this:
The justices, voting 5-4, said a group of taxpayers lacked the legal right to sue over White House-sponsored conferences designed to help groups compete for social-service funding. The suit contended the sessions promoted religious organizations over secular ones.
“If every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the role of general complaint bureaus,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s lead opinion.
The high court said in 1968 that taxpayers could challenge statutes that directed money to be spent for religious purposes. That decision marked an exception to the general rule that Americans can’t go to court to contest how their tax dollars are spent because they don’t have enough of a personal stake in the outcome.
Alito wrote for only himself, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Alito said the court didn’t need to reconsider the 1968 ruling.
Two other members of the majority — Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — said they would have gone further and overturned the 1968 ruling.
Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented.
Pete Yost of the Associated Press noted this:
In dissent, Justice David Souter said that the court should have allowed the taxpayer challenge to proceed.
The majority “closes the door on these taxpayers because the executive branch, and not the legislative branch, caused their injury,” wrote Souter. “I see no basis for this distinction.”
If you’re not completely pissed off yet, here’s the American Center for Law and Justice‘s Jay Sekulow:
“This is a very significant victory that sends a powerful message that atheists and others antagonistic to religion do not get an automatic free pass to bring Establishment Clause lawsuits…”
What a disappointing ruling.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF, Supreme Court, Hein, Establishment Clause, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Barry Lynn, Greg Stohr, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Pete Yost, American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow[/tags]