Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation case brief

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation case brief summary
127 S. Ct. 2553 (2007)

Respondents, an organization and three of its members, sued petitioners, Executive Branch officials, in district court, alleging that the officials violated the Establishment Clause. The district court dismissed for lack of standing. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

The officials directed the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and Executive Department Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives within several federal agencies and departments. Respondents alleged that the officials organized conferences at which religious community groups were promoted over secular ones. Respondents asserted taxpayer standing.


  • The Court held that respondents lacked standing under U.S. Constitutional art. III, although there was disagreement over whether the Flast v. Cohen exception to the general prohibition against taxpayer standing should remain viable. 
  • A plurality of the Court found that the Flast exception applied only to challenges directed at exercises of congressional power under the Taxing and Spending Clause, U.S. Constitutional art. I, § 8, and did not apply to respondents' challenge to the use of funds that were appropriated for the general discretionary use of the Executive Branch. 
  • The challenged expenditures were not expressly authorized or mandated by any specific congressional enactment; as a result, the action lacked a logical nexus between taxpayer status and the type of legislative enactment attacked.

The Seventh Circuit's judgment was reversed.

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