SCOTUS Should Remember True Precedent in Faith-Based Case

3 03 2007

Filed under: Faith-Based Initiatives, Supreme Court, FFRF, ACLJ, Church and State

UPDATED: 3/4/07 – With reader comments. Scroll for updates…

Humanists and atheists gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court Wednesday, charging the Bush administration with overstepping its bounds by promoting grants to “faith-based” organizations.

The rally preceded oral arguments in a case being brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) against the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) called on supporters to gather in front of the Supreme Court to speak out against the initiative, calling it unconstitutional.

The FFRF, a partner of the Secular Coalition for America, claims that many of the office’s activities propagated religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Lori Brown of the Secular Coalition for America said that the government is giving preferential treatment to religious organizations. “It is taxpayer money that this office doles out with virtually no oversight, and that money is spent with virtually no accountability.”We can no longer allow the federal government to favor certain religious organizations in what should be fair grant-making procedures,” Brown said.

Why, sure we can, Lori. Even potential swing-vote provider, Kennedy, recognizes what danger this presents and what true precedent is.

The ACLJ recently filed an amicus brief in support of the federal government in the Supreme Court case. The arguments deal with the technical matter of whether taxpayers should be allowed to bring such lawsuits.

“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,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center For Law and Justice, said in a press release.

Christian supporters of Bush’s initiative argue that the court should “put an end to federal taxpayer lawsuits by church-state separationists.” In the ACLJ’s press release, Sekulow said, “There is no constitutional conflict in using tax dollars to fund faith-based initiatives.”

“The church/state separationists have been given a free pass in federal court to bring Establishment Clause lawsuits,” he argued. “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. We’re hopeful the Supreme Court will put an end to the special treatment given to these plaintiffs.”

In its friend-of-the-court brief (posted at http://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.

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.”

Around the blogosphere, this liberal can’t even find the real reason secularists should be suing:

The plaintiffs cited figures showing that from 2003 to 2005, the number of federal grants to religious groups increased 38 percent. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and several of its members sued. They say that because the faith-based initiatives favor religious applicants for grants over secular applicants, they violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government support for religion.

If these secularists really want to challenge Bush on giving money to religious organizations, why did they delay, waiting to find out the seculars would not get as much money? Shouldn’t they have taken this case to court the day the new department cut its first check?

No, we would rather wait and see if we can get some free money first. But if you truly want to end faith-based initiatives on the grounds that it violates the establishment clause, then what right do secular groups have to the same money?

UPDATED: 3/4/07 – reader comments:

Anonymous Liberal:

The courts have consistently held, for quite some time, that the establishment clause means the federal government cannot show bias for or against religious institutions. Even if you’re correct, we can certainly envision situations where congress passes and the president signs a bill which contains unconstitutional spending. Without “taxpayer suits”, how would they ever get challenged?

Doc, a conservative with a true understanding of the Constitution, unlike these breathingists:

Sure. And Muslims who take the Koran seriously when it says to kill the infidels are ‘entitled’ to that opinion too, I suppose. And those who profit by the slave trade worldwide are entitled to the opinion that it’s an OK thing to do. And after all, the courts held consistently for some time that it was OK to hold slaves. So that must have been the right opinion.

Anyone who claims that the Founders intended the nonestablishment clause to mean that the Federal gov’t could do nothing that some court would interpret as furthering the interest of some religion somewhere (which, if they actually were to avoid such actions, would in fact have the purpose of advancing the religion of philosophical naturalism/secularism) is not entitled to that opinion, as it is an unreasonable and twisted interpretation of a very reasonable and easily interpretable document. It would be like reading the Bible and coming away with the idea that God is OK with murder, theft, abortion, and homosexuality. We are not entitled to such an opinion, no matter how much we are capable of thinking it.

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