Federal appeals court rules citizen cannot sue over state-funded cross restoration

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that an Illinois tax-payer does not have standing to sue the state legislature for a $20,000 grant provided to the Bald Knob Cross of Peace Organization for the restoration of a landmark Latin cross. The money was part of a $5 million appropriation for a grant program to be administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The court upheld the decision of the District Court [JURIST report] below, holding that the plaintiff, Robert Sherman, does not have standing because the legislature did not choose the specific organizations that would receive the money:

For a taxpayer to have standing to challenge a government expenditure as violating the Establishment Clause, the Supreme Court has required that the challenged action be "congressional action under the taxing and spending clause." Recently, the Court limited the reach of this holding to suits against "specific congressional enactment[s]," expressly excluding "discretionary Executive Branch expenditures" from taxpayer challenges in federal court.
The court determined that because the money was dispersed by an executive department, Sherman does not have standing as a taxpayer to challenge the expenditure.

The challenge was initially brought in August 2010 by Sherman, who has said on his website [advocacy website] that the decision of the District Court was "bizarre" and "preposterous." In October, the Seventh Circuit rejected [JURIST report] Sherman's challenge to the constitutionality of an Illinois statute that mandates a daily moment of silence in public schools. The court reversed an April 2009 ruling [JURIST report] that the Illinois Reflection and Silent Prayer Act [text] is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion in public schools. The appellate court instead found that the statute had a secular legislative purpose that neither advanced nor inhibited religion.

 

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