Check out this interesting op-ed piece in the NY Times today, on a case being heard in the Supreme Court over Bush’s faith-based initiatives.
The question before the court is whether a group seeking to preserve the separation of church and state can mount a First Amendment challenge to the Bush administration’s “faith based” initiatives. The arguments turn on a technical question of whether taxpayers have standing, or the right to initiate this kind of suit, but the real-world implications are serious. If the court rules that the group does not have standing, it will be much harder to stop government from giving unconstitutional aid to religion.
Soon after taking office, President Bush established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and faith-based offices in departments like Justice and Education. They were intended to increase the federal grant money going to religious organizations, and they seem to have been highly effective. The plaintiffs cited figures showing that from 2003 to 2005, the number of federal grants to religious groups increased 38 percent. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and several of its members sued. They say that because the faith-based initiatives favor religious applicants for grants over secular applicants, they violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government support for religion.
The Bush administration challenged the right of this organization to sue, trying to prevent them from even having their day in court. Why would they do that? Because, maybe, they realize that these faith-based initiatives are a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars and blatantly violate the separation of church and state. And if this case is eventually heard, it could open up a whole can of worms for the already-beleaguered administration, not to mention pissing off the religious fundies who haven’t been too happy with the state of things lately anyway.