ACLJ: Supreme Court Must End Special Privileges for Church-State Separationist Taxpayer Plaintiffs
February 28, 2007
(Washington, DC) The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law, said today the Supreme Court has an important opportunity to put an end to federal taxpayer lawsuits by church-state separationists. The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in the case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (U.S. No. 06-157) a case that also focuses on a challenge of using taxpayer dollars to fund a program of President Bushs faith-based initiative. The ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the high court in support of the federal governments position.
There is no constitutional conflict in using tax dollars to fund faith-based initiatives, said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ who attended todays oral arguments. The Supreme Court should leave the faith-based initiative alone and focus on removing the special privileges afforded to atheists and others who are antagonistic to religion. The church/state separationists have been given a free pass in federal court to bring Establishment Clause lawsuits. They have not had to show that a law or government activity actually injured them in any way before they could challenge it in federal court. All they had to do was show that they were taxpayers. That is not only unfair, but wrong. Were hopeful the Supreme Court will put an end to the special treatment given to these plaintiffs.
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 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.
The ACLJ brief is posted here.
Sekulow added: This case should not be used as a test case on how taxpayer funds are spent. Instead, the high court needs to bring an end to the special treatment given to atheists and other separationists. The Flast precedent has created an uneven playing field because it empowered every disgruntled atheist to make a federal case out of any hint of religion in a government action.
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.