Monday, June 25, 2007

Supreme Court Ruling on Faith-Based Initiatives

Washington, DC - Today, the United States Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision, rejected a challenge by a radical separationist advocacy group that sued to stop federal funding of "faith-based programs." The case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged funding for federal faith-based programs as a violation of the Establishment Clause. Justice Alito read the Court's opinion which held that taxpayers cannot challenge actions of the Executive Branch as violations of the Establishment Clause.
In 2002 President Bush established a Faith Based and Community Initiatives Plan to award grants intended to connect faith-based programs and grassroots community organizations to the United States' One-Stop Career System. This program has proven to be helpful within communities nationwide, offering services such as rehabilitation programs, assistance to the homeless, and providing career services to those in need.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit against the director of the program, Jay Hein, claiming that federal tax dollars supporting religion was a violation of the Establishment Clause. The trial court held that FFRF lacked standing to sue, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision reversed the order. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and ruled against FFRF, which will stop the suit from going forward.
FFRF argued that taxpayers who objected to federal funding of the faith-based programs should be allowed to sue to block such funding. Today's ruling rejecting this claim creates a precedent that the mere status of being a taxpayer does not provide grounds to object to the federal government's spending based on an alleged violation of the Establishment Clause. Had the Court ruled the other way and allowed broad taxpayer standing to challenge the disbursement of federal funds, the floodgates of litigation would be open for any taxpayer to sue the federal government by claiming any number of federal disbursements caused them to be offended.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation would like nothing more than to wield a wrecking ball across the land to demolish religious expression. The ruling by the Supreme Court is a significant setback to this organization's wrecking ball agenda.