Can the president set up an office in the White House to promote religion without court review or scrutiny?
That is the question the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this year in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation. Oral arguments will be held February 28.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenging the government preference for religion shown by the creation of the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the Bush Administration's claim that it can use taxpayer money to support religion without complaint by taxpayers.
The high court on Dec. 1 accepted the Bush Administration's attempt to stop the Freedom From Religion Foundation's taxpayer lawsuit, challenging the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives.
The Foundation, along with its three taxpayer plaintiffs--Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and Anne Nicol Gaylor--filed suit in 2004, challenging the faith-based office at the White House and at several Cabinets. A federal judge dismissed the challenge, saying that Barker and the Gaylors did not have standing to sue over something the executive office did with general appropriations, if Congress had not designated those actions.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year reinstated the lawsuit, holding that tax money raised by Congress, which then goes to executive officials, cannot be used to support religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Bush Administration appealed the Foundation's victory to the Supreme Court.
"We believe that the Court of Appeals was correct in its decision," said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president. "We welcome the Supreme Court's review to eliminate any doubt. If in fact Congressional appropriations can be used by the Administration in disregard of the Establishment Clause, then Congress and the American public should know that.