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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday, June 25, that taxpayers affiliated with an atheist group do not have standing to challenge the White House initiative channeling federal funds to religious groups providing social services.

Overturning a federal appeals court decision, the justices gave the White House a 5-4 victory in a closely watched ruling regarding its Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

"It has long been established … that the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the federal government," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"If every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the role of general complaint bureaus," Alito wrote.

The case, Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, focused on the use of taxpayer money to fund faith-based offices and related conferences across the executive branch.

Foundation members said the policy violated the First Amendment's prohibition on "establishment" of religion, but the White House office argued the case was "intrusive" on the executive branch. In a statement, President Bush said the decision "is a win for the thousands of community and faith-based nonprofits all across the country that have partnered with government at all levels to serve their neighbors.

"Most importantly," Bush said, "it is a win for the many whose lives have been lifted by the caring touch and compassionate hearts of these organizations." The justices were asked to determine if taxpayers—in this case, the Wisconsin-based foundation—had standing to ...

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June 2007

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