U.S. Supreme Court rejects legal attack on White House conference that helps faith-based groups help the poor
WASHINGTON — In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that an atheist organization lacked taxpayer standing to challenge a White House conference that informed both faith-based and secular organizations about federal funding for programs that help the poor. ADF attorneys authored a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Supreme Court in the case.
“Simply being offended by religion does not allow a taxpayer to run to a court and have the government stop something he or she doesn’t like,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who authored the brief along with ADF Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “In pushing their radical and exclusionary agenda, the Freedom from Religion Foundation put their extreme view of the Establishment Clause ahead of the pressing need for compassionate efforts by faith-based organizations to help the less fortunate. Real people would have suffered if the atheists’ lawsuit would have been allowed to move forward.”
The White House conferences informed charitable groups, both secular and faith-based, about existing federal grant programs to help the poor and how to apply for such grants. The Freedom from Religion Foundation believes that the Establishment Clause bars faith-based charities from receiving government funding, so they filed suit against the White House as taxpayers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that the taxpayers had standing to challenge the conference and allowed the case to proceed. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in January on behalf of We Care America, a faith-based organization with affiliates in 28 states, ADF attorneys asked the Supreme Court to enforce federal standing requirements--which require that plaintiffs demonstrate concrete injury--in Establishment Clause cases. ADF attorneys argued that this is necessary to protect faith-based ministries from ongoing and unnecessary legal attacks from the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom from Religion Foundation, and other like-minded groups.
In Monday’s decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court that what the members of Freedom from Religion Foundation are proposing “would enlist the federal courts to superintend, at the behest of any federal taxpayer, the speeches, statements, and myriad daily activities of the President, his staff, and other Executive Branch officials.” The court therefore concluded that the mere fact that the plaintiffs are taxpayers is not sufficient grounds to bring a lawsuit against the White House program.
The full text of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation can be read at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/HeinOpinion.pdf.
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