ACLJ: Significant Victory as Supreme Court Protects Faith-Based Initiative & Rebuffs Church-State Separationist Taxpayer Plaintiffs
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which specializes in constitutional law, praised today’s Supreme Court’s decision turning away church-state separationists’ federal lawsuit challenging the use of taxpayer dollars to fund a program of President Bush's faith-based initiative. The Court ruled that the separationists had no legal standing to bring the suit.
“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”
The Supreme Court vote was 5-4 in the case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (U.S. No. 06-157). The ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the high court in support of the federal government’s position which prevailed today.
“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,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “The Supreme Court got it right in determining that the plaintiffs who challenged the President’s faith-based initiative had no legal standing to do so. This decision will have serious ramifications for separationist attempts to claim special privileges to sue as taxpayers without showing that a law or government activity actually injured them in any way. This is an important victory for the judicial system and for the President’s faith-based initiative. By rejecting a claim to special treatment for atheists and other separationists, the high court took an important step toward restoring equity to the legal system with respect to federal challenges in the Establishment Clause arena.”
In the Hein case, separationist taxpayers challenged a federal faith-based initiatives program. The federal district court in Wisconsin dismissed the case, ruling that taxpayers had no “standing” -- capacity to sue -- because there was no federal grant at issue. But a federal appeals court reinstated the suit ruling that the separationists had standing to challenge the use of federal funds to run the challenged program. The federal government appealed to the Supreme Court.
In its friend-of-the-court brief (posted at www.aclj.org) in support of the federal government, the ACLJ points out that no federal taxpayer suits are allowed in any other context aside from Establishment Clause suits challenging federal spending. That exception, the ACLJ brief notes, rests on the 1968 decision of Flast v. Cohen. Subsequent to Flast, however, the Supreme Court has refused to expand Flast and has rejected each and every argument the Court made in support of the Flast decision. Today’s decision continues the trend to rebuff efforts to build upon the questionable Flast precedent.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice specializes in constitutional law and focuses on religious liberty litigation. The ACLJ is based in Washington, D.C. and is online at www.aclj.org.