Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit aimed at the president’s faith-based effort couldn’t go forward because, well, taxpayers can’t sure over specific executive branch expenditures. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito argued the federal budget is so big,
“…it is a complete fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm. And 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.”
He is right. Imagine a world in which every citizen could sue the government over ever single dime spent on every single program. Between the two Ralph Nader and Rush Limbaugh would bring down American democracy.
Now for the faith-based significance.
The suit attacked the regional faith-based conferences the White House has been holding since 2002. Those conferences, which I explored heavily in my book, were both good and bad. The good is that they truly educated faith-based and secular groups (small ones) on how to work with the federal government to avoid violating church-state law. They represented one of the first times the government ever reached out to these small groups that are so vital to social service in America, giving them the tools to consider applying for federal grants.
The bad was that their primary motivation was political. It was about recruiting “non-traditional” Republicans for the 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections. Thousands of people attended these workshops. They were, by and large, minorities who probably hadn’t ever supported President Bush. But these workshops impressed them. They saw an administration that was willing to meet them on their own turf. That is something that no other Republican or Democratic administration had done.
Now that the case has been decided there have been the predictable reactions from both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives are hailing it a great victory and validation of the president’s initiative. Liberals are saying it is a blow to church-state relations.
That is what each side has always done on matters faith-based.
How refreshing it would be for liberals and conservatives both to confront this president about the pathetic failure to live up to the grand promises made to the poor.