Flast v. Cohen

392 U.S. 83, 88 S. Ct. 1942 (1968)



In deciding the question of standing, it is not relevant that the substantive issues in the litigation might be nonjusticiable. However, in ruling on standing, it is both appropriate and necessary to look to the substantive issues for another purpose, namely, to determine whether there is a logical nexus between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated. Standing requirements will vary in U.S. Const. amend. I religion cases depending upon whether the party raises an Establishment Clause claim or a claim under the Free Exercise Clause.


The court reversed a judgment that had dismissed an action brought by appellant taxpayers against appellees, a federal agency and its officials, on the grounds that appellants lacked standing to challenge expenditure of federal tax funds for alleged violations of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of U.S. Const. amend. I. The court held that a taxpayer would have standing consistent with U.S. Const. art. III to invoke federal judicial power when he alleged that congressional action under the Taxing and Spending Clause was in derogation of those constitutional provisions, which operated to restrict the exercise of the taxing and spending power.


Did the taxpayers establish their standing to bring suit?




Since the taxpayers' constitutional challenge was made to an exercise by Congress of its constitutional power to spend for the general welfare with respect to a program involving a substantial expenditure of federal tax funds, and since the establishment clause operated as a specific constitutional limitation upon the exercise by Congress of its taxing and spending powers, the taxpayers had standing to invoke a federal court's jurisdiction for an adjudication on the merits. Moreover, the court also stated that there is no absolute bar in Art. III of the Constitution to suits by federal taxpayers challenging allegedly unconstitutional federal taxing and spending programs since the taxpayers may or may not have the requisite personal stake in the outcome. 

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