White House Can Function as “Propaganda Vehicle for Religion”
Posted: 01 November 2007 07:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hein v. FFRF Supreme Court Decision: White House Faith-based Office Can Function as “Propaganda Vehicle for Religion”

Executive Actions to Promote Religion Ruled Beyond Court Scrutiny

“Separation of powers is supposed to provide checks and balances. It is quite an oversight to deny oversight!”
The decision is a wake-up call to voters and Congress.

June 25, 2007

(MADISON, WIS.) The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision today in Hein v. FFRF granting the executive branch the freedom to violate the separation of church and state without court review spells “imperial presidency,” charges the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“Had Justice O’Connor remained on the court, as she was when we filed this lawsuit, we are confident this would have been a 5-4 decision in our favor. Kennedy has become a swing vote to overturn well-established precedent,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“This means we have a constitutional separation between church and state, but no way to enforce it if the executive branch chooses to violate it with ‘discretionary’ actions,” added Dan Barker, a plaintiff and Foundation co-president. The Foundation is the largest association of atheists and agnostics in the U.S., whose 10,000 members work to keep church and state separate.

The Foundation brought suit in 2004 to challenge the government preference for religion shown by the creation of “faith-based” offices by the White House and federal cabinets by executive order. The suit challenged an internal “faith-based” bureaucracy within the federal government, which exists to promote faith-based funding, shows preference to funding religious over nonreligious groups, and holds conferences for faith-based groups, which has cost taxpayers multimillions, if not billions, of tax dollars.

Significantly, the high court upheld the precedent of Flast v. Cohen (1968), granting federal taxpayers the right to challenge unconstitutional acts of Congress to promote religion. Today’s Court interpretation, however, limits Flast v. Cohen to acts of Congress explicitly appropriating money used to promote religion, or funding specific programs which promote religion.

“Today’s unjust decision doesn’t even allow us into a courtroom to plead our case. But not overturning Flast v. Cohen is the silver lining,” said Barker.

The Supreme Court in effect ruled that the Bush Administration may use taxpayer money to support religion without complaint by taxpayers. The decision makes the violation impervious to court review, since no one besides taxpayers could have standing to challenge the appropriations.

“The only remedy left, since individual Americans are being barred from challenging this violation, is for Congress to defund the Office of Faith-based Initiatives at the White House and Cabinets,” said Barker. “Let Congress provide the oversight that the Court is refusing to give!”

The Foundation noted that all five voting against the right of federal taxpayers to sue in this case are practicing Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics, numbering five justices, now dominate the court. They are Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Alito, who wrote the decision, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy.

There are “imperial presidency” ramifications to the decision for the country beyond the fact that it will make it impossible to challenge many egregious violations of the Establishment Clause, Gaylor stated. In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy warns of “a real danger of judicial oversight of executive decisions,” and “constant intrusion upon the executive realm.” She pointed to Alito’s wording that we need to keep “courts within certain traditional bounds.”

“Separation of powers is supposed to provide checks and balances. It is quite an oversight to deny oversight!” Barker commented.

The decision is a wake-up call to voters and Congress, Gaylor said, noting that voters often overlook the fact that the most important domestic power a U.S. president possesses is to nominate Supreme Court justices.

The punchy and powerful dissent, written by Justice Souter and signed by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens, notes: “If the Executive could accomplish through the exercise of discretion exactly what Congress cannot do through legislation, Establishment Clause protection would melt away.”

Souter wrote: “I see no basis for this distinction in either logic or precedent, and respectfully dissent.”

Souter quoted James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, in which Madison wrote that the government in a free society may not “force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment” of religion.

Said the Foundation’s attorney of counsel Richard Bolton:

“We are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision, particularly given the Court’s long commitment to the principle that taxpayers should not be forced to contribute even three pence to the government’s support of religion. The Court’s ‘three pence’ reference in Everson has become one of the Court’s most recognized pronouncements. For the Court to now conclude that taxpayers have no such standing to object to the use of their ‘three pence’ for the support of religion renders the Constitutional prohibition meaningless. The Court’s opinion today simply cannot be reconciled with previous precedents. It cannot be squared with a commitment to enforcing the Establishment Clause.”

Scalia, in his concurrence signed by Thomas, dismisses taxpayer concerns as mere “Psychic Injury.”

“Scalia incorrectly asserts that our injury ‘consists of the taxpayer’s mental displeasure that money extracted from him is being spent in an unlawful manner,’ ” said Barker. “It is the U.S. Supreme Court that ought to have been ‘displeased’ that tax money is being spent unlawfully to promote religion!”

The Supreme Court’s action overturned the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2006 ruled that the Foundation and its taxpayers had the right to sue over allegations that the faith-based offices and their conferences have become government “vehicles of religious propaganda.”

The case is one of 11 lawsuits the Foundation has taken challenging various parts of the faith-based initiative. So far, the Foundation has won five significant victories in federal court, with four additional ongoing lawsuits. That litigation includes a new federal lawsuit filed last week challenging government appropriations to a church-run “ranch” in North Dakota which exists to bring children “to the Lord Jesus Christ” and which forbids nonChristian worship on its premises. A Foundation case filed in May challenges the controversial and first-of-its-kind creation of a chaplaincy to minister to state workers in Indiana.

http://ffrf.org/news/2007/heinvFFRF.php

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Posted: 02 November 2007 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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FredFlash - 01 November 2007 07:22 PM

  “This means we have a constitutional separation between church and state, but no way to enforce it if the executive branch chooses to violate it with ‘discretionary’ actions,” added Dan Barker, a plaintiff and Foundation co-president. 

I guess those who claim the First Amendment applies only to Congress are celebrating.  The executive branch now has power over our religion.  We, the “true” Baptists, need to make common cause with the others who want separation of church and state, and try to seize the levers of executive power so that it is our religion that the Executive Branch promotes.  You Infidels, Jews, Turks and Gentoos are more than welcome in our coalition.

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Posted: 03 November 2007 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I watched a rerun of a Republican Focus forum on CSPAN and the discussions of the forum points to a need for a Theocacy in America.  Not one member of the forum mentioned the individual rights that were so important to the original founding of the GOP.  The assumption is t all Conservatives want a prohibition on abortions, same sex marriages, stem cell research and end of life choices.  These people in total want a religious leader not a President as defined in the Constitution.

I’ve realized for many years that Christians and Jews would prefer a Socialized Government where individual choices were kept to a minimum per person.  These members that I watched judged values on Federal legislation leaving little to the individual American.  They all seem to enjoy the wars and our future of wars in the Middle East.  I get the feeling they want a current crusade to destroy Islam and possibly Judaism,if necessary.

I’m worried because the last set of numbers puts Christians and Jews in the 70% majority of American voters. Will they vote as a bloc to reduce our individual rights?

Is 2008 going to be the deciding factor in whether we go for a Theocracy or try to stay somewhere near a Republic?  I refuse to live by Christian values as they are meaningless and false.  Where does one go for freedoms?

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Posted: 04 November 2007 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Sandy Price - 03 November 2007 04:30 AM

Is 2008 going to be the deciding factor in whether we go for a Theocracy or try to stay somewhere near a Republic? 

We’re already a Theocracy.  The executive branch of the U. S. government now has power over religion.  It’s just a matter of who gets to use that executive power to promote their religion.

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Posted: 04 November 2007 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Well Fred, let’s throw the bastards out in 2008!

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Posted: 04 November 2007 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Sandy Price - 04 November 2007 06:29 AM

Well Fred, let’s throw the bastards out in 2008!

Define “the bastards” for me.  I wonder if there is any money in the proposed Federal budget for any of that faith based initiative crap.

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Posted: 04 November 2007 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There is nothing in the budget to cover the expenses of the help the churches sent to the Katrina victims.  When we learned about this grant to cover them, it was immediately brought to the attention of the IRS to repeal their tax status and make them pay taxes on these grants.  The time to have tried to stop these faith based grants was during Bush’s campaign but few thought it was legal to begin with and nothing was done.  We have a different system these days and many of these Christian organizations with their hands in our till will lose their not-for-profit status. 

We will need a Democratic White HOuse and congress with at least 60 votes in the Senate before any of us can breathe freely.  Only Edward Tabash has been brave enough to speak out on this problem and he inspired me to look carefully at every program suggested by any elected official in the future.

The Separation of Church and State would seem to be our only tool to stop this nonsense.

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Posted: 04 November 2007 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Sandy Price - 04 November 2007 09:20 AM

There is nothing in the budget to cover the expenses of the help the churches sent to the Katrina victims.  When we learned about this grant to cover them, it was immediately brought to the attention of the IRS to repeal their tax status and make them pay taxes on these grants.  The time to have tried to stop these faith based grants was during Bush’s campaign but few thought it was legal to begin with and nothing was done.  We have a different system these days and many of these Christian organizations with their hands in our till will lose their not-for-profit status. 

What about general appropriations being used for faith based programs?  How does that work, and is there any in the present proposed budgets?

We will need a Democratic White House and congress with at least 60 votes in the Senate before any of us can breathe freely.

Why is that?  Why can’t Congress just appropriate no funds for faith based programs?

The Separation of Church and State would seem to be our only tool to stop this nonsense.

There is no more separation of church and state.  That’s why we need to fight like hell to control the federal government.  I predict religious war.

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Posted: 04 November 2007 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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American secularists are going to have to get organized before a religous war in America can be proposed.  This is why I attend many of the conferences to meet wonderful people like Edward Kabash.  He is working to reinstate the Separation of Church and State and that would put the law behind the division. 

After the holidays I will be writing a commentary on the Republican Platforms; comparing 1980, 1992 (start of the neconservatives) and 2004 where the Amendments to the Constitution on Social issues were placed in the Platform setting a new standard of Police State for the GOP.  I believe if Republicans saw this in print, they might be more cautious about electing members of the religious right.  I know a lot of Republicans who are secular with no interest in prohibiting anything social.  They are simply too absorbed with telelvision shows to understand why so many of us panic that an entire Political Party wants a police state with justification to be found in the new Constitutional Amendments. It is why we must not elect another Conservative until they know exactly the plans found in the platform.

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Posted: 04 November 2007 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Sandy Price - 04 November 2007 02:44 PM

American secularists are going to have to get organized before a religous war in America can be proposed.  This is why I attend many of the conferences to meet wonderful people like Edward Kabash.  He is working to reinstate the Separation of Church and State and that would put the law behind the division.

Tell me more about this, please.

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