SCOTUS Ruling in FFRF v. Hine Places Politics and Religion Above Constitution

The Supreme Court gave the executive branch a free pass to violate the First Amendment yesterday when they decided against the Freedom From Religion Foundation in FFRF v. Hine.  They found that lawsuits against the federal government's executive branch for unconstitutionally promoting religion can no longer be filed on behalf of taxpayers. Absurdly, they did not simultaneously overturn a previous 1968 ruling found that taxpayers could sue when the Congress spent money on religion. This special exception to the rule of not considering taxpayer based lawsuits, was carved out in order to address this constitutional issue, and so it was allowed to stand -- just for Congress.

Justice Souter exposed the disconnect when he wrote in his dissent, "When executive agencies spend identifiable sums of tax money for religious purposes, no less than when Congress authorizes the same thing, taxpayers suffer injury." So why treat the executive branch differently?

The Supreme Court's decision allows the Executive Branch to steamroll over the Establishment Clause and spend tax payer money to promote sectarian causes. The faith-based initiatives office is a case in point. Our money is being funneled to religious groups, who use that money to proselytize. But no longer do taxpayers have a right to challenge unconstitutional use of their hard-earned dollars.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's original suit was challenging the constitutionality of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bush's religious beliefs drive many of these initiatives. Faith-based initiatives funding went to the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, LA, whose mission (according to its website) is to "assist those who are struggling with addiction [to] become free through the Power of God." This church was highlighted by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address as a model for this government program, even though they rely "solely on the foundation of the Word of God to break the bands of addiction."

The Supreme Court makes the distinction between illegal actions performed by the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch, but there should be no such distinction. A violation of the First Amendment should be heard in a court of law, not protected by this new Court which is placing political and religious ideas over that of their mandate to protect the Constitution.

Justices Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas were in the majority, marking another time the new court has been narrowly divided with all Catholic Justices in the majority.

More in Court Battles

Voters to weigh potential SCOTUS vacancies, poll finds

Read more »