The U.S. Supreme Court limited the power of taxpayers to challenge government actions as unconstitutionally promoting religion, throwing out a suit aimed at President George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives office.
The justices, voting 5-4, said a group of taxpayers lacked the legal right to sue over White House-sponsored conferences designed to help groups compete for social-service funding. The suit contended the sessions promoted religious organizations over secular ones.
"The decision insulates the federal government's executive branch from lawsuits centering on the U.S. constitutional ban on establishment of religion," the report reads. "The ruling also may shield states, although a number of them have laws that give their taxpayers broad rights to sue over public spending."
The whole thing hinges on the issue of 'standing' -- i.e., who has the right to sue. This Supreme Court has a history of ruling on the issue of standing when they can't find any other reasoning to get the result they've wanted. This way, they don't have to actually make a decision on the case. The Supremes had previously ruled that an atheist father, Michael Newdow, had no standing to challenge a California law requiring schools begin the day with the Pledge of Allegiance (complete with the affirmation, "Under God").
So who has the right to sue in these cases? That's a damned good question. In the Newdow case, the court ruled that he didn't have standing since he didn't have custody. It's iffy reasoning, but at least it's plausible. In this case, Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, the decision makes a lot less sense. In fact, it completely ignores precedent. Bloomberg again:
The high court said in 1968 that taxpayers could challenge statutes that directed money to be spent for religious purposes. That decision marked an exception to the general rule that Americans can't go to court to contest how their tax dollars are spent because they don't have enough of a personal stake in the outcome.
Here's the definition of 'judicial activism' (emphasis mine):
...the practice in the judiciary of protecting or expanding individual rights through decisions that depart from established precedent or are independent of or in opposition to supposed constitutional or legislative intent.
of course, judicial activism is only something liberal judges do -- Roberts, Alito, & co. are 'strict constructionists,' meaning they only go by the letter of the law, right?
Not so much. I can't find the part of the Constitution that says taxpayers can't sue if the government's spending tax money unconstitutionally. But, then again, SCOTUS never ruled on whether or not it was unconstitutional. They aren't interested. All they're interested in is continuing to pump money into church coffers -- just like the founders intended. That's why Jefferson and Madison created the Office of Faith-Based... Um, wait...
OK, so they didn't. Bush did. And since it was opened, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has spent not a dime on a program that wasn't run by christians. Not one red cent.
If an atheist group has no right to challenge taxpayer dollars spent for religious purposes, then who does? If all the spending goes to christians and non-christians have no right to complain, then who does have the right?
Pretty much no one. "If every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the role of general complaint bureaus," wrote Samuel Alito. What complete BS. If the courts aren't the complaint department, then what the hell are they? Who goes to court because they're so damned happy about something that they want everyone to know?
Here's that pesky Constitution on lawsuits (emphasis again mine):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
It's not any surprise that the court ignored this, since the court's decision hinges on being able to ingore the first amendment entirely.
If the situation were reversed, if an atheist group were getting funding and James Dobson were suing, how much do you want to bet that we'd wind up with a completely opposite decision? I'd bet everything on it. Dobson would have standing up the wazoo and the five of the five-to-four would be outraged, outraged, that Dobson's money was being spent on heathens.
But the situation wasn't reversed. The Supreme Court couldn't get the ruling they wanted, so they threw the case out on the flimsiest of pretexts. In the US today, if you're a christian, you're a citizen -- if not, go screw yourself. This is a theocracy and the Supreme Court are the Council of High Priests.
Technorati tags: politics; religion; Bush; religious right; law; There used to be a time when the Supreme Court gave a damn about the Constitution and the First Amendment -- but that was before the country became a theocracy