Hein v. Freedom from Religion Found., Inc.
Supreme Court of the United States
February 28, 2007, Argued ; June 25, 2007, Decided
[***434] [**2559] [*592] Justice Alito announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which The Chief Justice and Justice Kennedy join.
This is a lawsuit in which it was claimed that conferences held as part of the President's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because, among other things, President Bush and former Secretary of Education Paige gave speeches that used "religious imagery" and praised the efficacy of faith-based programs in delivering social services. [*593] The plaintiffs contend that they meet [****13] the standing requirements of Article III of the Constitution because they pay federal taxes.
It has long been established, however, that the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the Federal Government. In light of the size of the federal budget, it is a complete fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm. And 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.
In Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 88 S. Ct. 1942, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947 (1968), we recognized a narrow exception to the general rule against federal taxpayer standing. Under Flast, a plaintiff asserting an Establishment Clause claim has standing to challenge a law authorizing the use of federal funds in a way that allegedly violates the Establishment Clause. In the present case, Congress did not specifically authorize the use of federal funds to pay for the conferences or speeches that the plaintiffs challenged. Instead, the conferences and speeches were paid [****14] for out of general Executive Branch appropriations.
The Court of Appeals, however, held that the plaintiffs have standing as taxpayers because the conferences were paid for with money appropriated by Congress. Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.
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551 U.S. 587 *; 127 S. Ct. 2553 **; 168 L. Ed. 2d 424 ***; 2007 U.S. LEXIS 8512 ****; 75 U.S.L.W. 4560; 44 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 637; 20 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 418
JAY F. HEIN, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF FAITH-BASED AND COMMUNITY INITIATIVES, et al., Petitioners v. FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION, INC., et al.
Subsequent History: [****1] On remand at Freedom from Religion Found. v. Chao, 250 Fed. Appx. 751, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 24319 (7th Cir. Wis., Oct. 15, 2007)
Prior History: ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.
Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Chao, 433 F.3d 989, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 811 (7th Cir. Wis., 2006)
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