SCOTUS Denies Taxpayer Standing To Challenge Bush Administration Faith Based Initiatives

The Supreme Court has handed down its decision in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, ruling that Flast taxpayer standing for Establishment Clause violations does not extend beyond a challenge to specific Congressional appropriations to discretionary Executive expenditures.

The opinions are very interesting at first blush. Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, opine that Flast was directed very specifcally at Congressional action and that allowing challenges to discretionary Executive expenditures was too attenuated to provide standing. Justice Scalia and Thomas, in concurrence, argue that Flast is bad law and should be overruled. Interestingly, they argue that there is no basis for distinguishing taxpayer challenges to Executive expenditures from taxpayer challenges to Congressional appropriations as the harm is the same to the taxpayer. Nonetheless, even though Flast remains good law after Hein, the result in the case is the same.

The dissenters, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer, believe Flast is good law, and like Scalia and Thomas, believe that Hein can not be distinguished from Flast. They also point to Bowen v. Kendrick, as the case controlling the result in Hein. I'll add to this post later as I get a chance to read the opinions more closely.

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    Me too (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 03:44:00 PM EST
    As a non-lawyer, I actually understood the headline and was completely lost at the post!

    It is posted at Digby's and not so legalistic.

    The Supreme Court ruled Monday that ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge a White House initiative that helps religious charities get a share of federal money.

    The 5-4 decision blocks a lawsuit by a group of atheists and agnostics against eight Bush administration officials including the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

    The taxpayers' group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., objected to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

    I couldn't agree more with digby's comment:

    ny questions why the next president can't be a Republican, boys and girls?


    we have the right (4.00 / 1) (#6)
    by TCKelly on Fri Jul 13, 2007 at 09:07:36 AM EST
    to choose how our money is spent, but it's through VOTING, that's the point of a REPRESENTATIVE government. We elect them to decide what to do with the money, not to force them to spend it as we want. They are "judges" to judge the will of their consitutents, not to change their minds for every single protester. Would we want a small group of Wingers to 'Veto' spending on something like healthcare?

    Minor comment (none / 0) (#1)
    by jerry on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 12:51:37 PM EST
    As a non-lawyer, I actually understood the headline and was completely lost at the post!

    (But I do appreciate your pointing this ruling out (based on my understanding of the headline.)

    explaining the post (none / 0) (#4)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 07:53:22 PM EST
    >As a non-lawyer, I actually understood the >headline and was completely lost at the post!

    In the law, people aim to come to conclusions.  These conclusions can be a matter of what is or isn't constitutional.  These conclusions can be a matter of who is or isn't guilty of a crime.

    Usually we assume, or very much hope, that rulings which become constitutional law are ones that have good or solid reasoning "behind" them.  Juries don't need to give their reasons for verdicts, but judges usually give their reasons for their rulings, especially in matters of constitutional law.

    In this case, the justices who were part of the concurrence were split into two "camps."  (The concurrence refers to the two opinions which in this case collectively decided the case.  However, in other cases, a justice might write a decision in which he "concurs in part and dissents in part."  And, a justice can dissent from a decision on grounds similar to another dissenting opinion.  I forget if that is called concurrence of some type.)

    The two "camps" agreed that the taxpayers couldn't challenge the actions of the President as a constitutional violation of their rights.  However, the two camps came to that result by adopting contradictory premises along the way to their conclusion.

    In this case, the liberals (in the blogosphere)point to the mutually contradictory premises which the two right-wing camps adopted as evidence that the conclusion was poor.  Or, at least, that some reasoning used in reaching it was unsound.

    The case was about 2 things:

    1. whether taxpayers have standing as plaintiffs to sue the federal government for conduct they allege violates the 1st amendment;
    2. whether the conduct violates the 1st amendment.

    The justice system never got to point 2, because the Supreme Court ruled that the taxpayers don't have "standing" to sue.  And, I believe, that is a sad result.  For there have been various constitutional violations from time to time and the constitutionality of the actions never reviewed, because justices unwisely ruled that the plaintiffs lacked "standing."

    I hope that helps.


    Yes it does, thank you (none / 0) (#5)
    by jerry on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 11:12:15 PM EST
    Thanks for taking the time to clarify!

    Interesting (none / 0) (#3)
    by Maryb2004 on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 06:04:49 PM EST
    So you have seven who don't want to overturn precedent and the usual two who do. And especially interesting that Alito didn't agree with Scalia on that and joined Roberts.  Not that it matters in terms of the result.  And negating precedent without actually overturning it might end up being the m.o. of the Roberts court.   I haven't read it so I look forward to hearing what you think.