The ACLU’s perennial lawsuits attacking our nation’s religious heritage are backfiring, and that’s something for which you can give thanks this year.
An important—and, until recently, overlooked—constitutional requirement called “standing” is thwarting those attacks. Two federal appellate courts said “enough” and have recently thrown out ACLU lawsuits brought to stop prayer before the Indiana Legislature and a school board in Louisiana because the ACLU’s clients had suffered no harm—that is, they “lacked standing” to bring a lawsuit in the first place. So, rulings on “standing” are now protecting public prayer.
The obscure doctrine of “standing” means that federal courts cannot hear a lawsuit unless the person bringing it has suffered some concrete injury by the hand of the government, and the federal courts can do something to remedy that harm. The Constitution itself in Article III imposes these standing requirements on everyone bringing a lawsuit in federal court.
For decades, the ACLU has convinced federal courts to ignore these rules of standing when it brings its extreme lawsuits to eradicate the posting the Ten Commandments in city hall, to censor the singing of Christmas carols in the public schools, or to stop a school board meeting from opening in prayer. The ACLU locates the village atheist, and files a lawsuit on his behalf, asking the federal court to stop the practice because it allegedly violates the so-called “separation of church and state” in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
But the village atheist has suffered no “concrete injury.” So years ago, the ACLU and its secularist allies bamboozled the courts into ignoring the general rules of standing for lawsuits in their cases and permitting lawsuits brought by “offended observers” of a religious display or prayer or by “taxpayers” who had contributed financially to the allegedly unconstitutional governmental act, no matter how little their contribution.
The federal courts do not allow lawsuits by “offended observers” or “taxpayers” in any other area of law. Someone offended by government signs stating “Support the War In Iraq,” “Say No To Drugs,” or “Pay Taxes Here” cannot go to court for an order censoring those signs. The fact that they may have paid taxes to make those signs does not mean they have suffered a “concrete injury” that gets them into the federal courthouse.