February 28, 2007

NY Times (reg. req'd.) The question for the Supreme Court on Wednesday was a jurisdictional one: whether taxpayers who object to the way the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives spends its money can get into federal court to make their case.

Whether the office or its programs actually run afoul of the Constitution was not before the justices.

But any notion that this jurisdictional question was the sort of arcane, technical issue that only a law professor could love was quickly dispelled by the intensity of the argument, one of the liveliest of the term.

The fast-paced hour ended with the clear impression that the Roberts court will soon put its own stamp on the law of taxpayer standing, with potentially significant implications for the relationship between government and religion.

The real question by the end of the argument was whether a majority would be content simply to scale back a Warren court precedent that allows taxpayers to challenge the use of public money for religious purposes or whether the court would disavow the precedent altogether and keep such suits out of federal court.

Sadly, I don't hold a lot of faith that the Supreme Court not making some narrow, esoteric decision that deprives citizens from challenging the White House's actions from the Office of Faith-based Initiatives.

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