Saturday, January 14, 2006

'Faith' Based Iniatiave Shoved Back Into Bu$h's Face

Yahoo! News:

"MADISON, Wis. - A group can sue the federal government over claims that President Bush's faith-based initiative is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, a federal appeals court ruled. "

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated the lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group claims Bush's program, which helps religious organizations get government funding to provide social services, violates the separation of church and state.

"Bush says this is constitutional, but it's never been tried by the courts. So we're pleased," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, said Saturday.

Bush sidestepped Congress by issuing executive orders to create the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and similar centers in 10 federal agencies during his first term. He said the goal was to help religious and community groups compete for federal funding to fight poverty, substance abuse and other social problems.

The Madison-based foundation filed suit against the administration in 2004. A federal district judge dismissed the case, ruling that taxpayers have no standing to challenge funding appropriations made by the executive branch, only those earmarked for specific purposes by Congress.

But the appeals panel, based in Chicago, said taxpayers can challenge executive-branch programs that allegedly promote religion using taxpayer funds.

George Washington University law professor Ira C. Lupu said the case is the broadest national challenge to Bush's initiative, but the group faces an uphill battle proving it is unconstitutional.

Messages left at the White House's faith-based office and the U.S. Attorney's office in Madison were not immediately returned Saturday. The government could ask the full appeals court to rehear the case or appeal the ruling to the
U.S. Supreme Court

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