Brief Fact Summary. The Respondents, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Inc. (Respondent), brought suit as taxpayers. They alleged that the Department of Health Education and Welfare grant of United States property to a religious college violated the Establishment and Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Taxpayer standing is appropriate when the plaintiff challenges an enactment under the taxing and spending clause and the enactment exceeds specific constitutional limitations on taxing and spending.
A plaintiff may have a spiritual stake in First Amendment values sufficient to give standing to raise issues concerning the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does the Respondent have standing as a taxpayer to bring this suit?
Held. No. Reversed and remanded. Because Respondents sue on an administrative action authorized under the property clause of the, they fail the first prong of the standing test developed in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968), requiring Congressional action under the taxing and spending clause.
Dissent. Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan) sees the rise of standing jurisprudence as a means to sidestep deciding important rights issues by effectively slamming “the courthouse door against plaintiffs who are entitled to full consideration of their claims on the merits.”
Discussion. Regardless of the dissent’s moral and fair play arguments, the majority holding in this case is a straightforward application of the rule developed in Flast v. Cohen, which has yet to be overturned.