The first court challenge to President Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives ended on a technicality according to the US Supreme Court. It said that since the funding wasn’t from Congress then the public have no standing to challenge it. The case is named Hein v. Freedom from Religion.
The OFBCI was created by executive order in 2001, shortly after President Bush took office. Its Web site says it was designed to ensure that “private and charitable community groups, including religious ones, should have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field in the field of providing social services.”
A year earlier, the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit challenging OFBCI’s spending authority. Money for the office does not come from a direct congressional expenditure, but from the White House’s general “discretionary” fund.
That was the excuse the court used to avoid the issue.
Alito said since Congress did not specifically authorize how the White House should fund its “day-to-day activities,” such expenditures were subject only to the executive’s discretion.
Taxpayers, he said, “set out a parade of horribles that they claim could occur” by allowing such faith-based funding to continue, suggesting the federal government could build a national house of worship, or buy Jewish Stars of David and distribute them to public employees.
“Of course none of these things has happened,” said Alito, and “in the unlikely event that any of these executive actions did take place, Congress could quickly step in.”
Would they really? Most of the same congress that fell over themselves to recite the pledge of allegiance under God when the 9th Circuit court ruled that “under god” in the pledge was unconstitutional in 2002 or the same Congress that agreed to create a national park to preserve a Christian cross in 2006?
The same Congress that caved to a President with only a 28% approval rating over a so-called time table for bringing our men and women back from Iraq?
Uh…. okay…. whatever you say Alito.
Americans United had this to say:
“This is a disappointing decision that blocks the courthouse door for Americans with legitimate church-state grievances,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Taxpayers should be allowed to challenge public funding of religion, whether the money is allocated by Congress or the White House.”
Folks, this is very bad news. It gives immunity to the President to break the law (it’s not breaking the law anymore) by simply choosing to give money to religious institutions, but not secular ones. This case may change everything. We can’t stop the huge gush of tax money going to churches, we don’t even have the right to sue.
Read the decision: Hein v. Freedom from Religion (2007)