The Supreme Court heard oral arguments February 28 in a case that, on the surface, is about technical issues but could end up having significant ramifications for the way courts handle church-state cases. At stake is the ability of federal courts to hear cases challenging whether a government action favors one religion over another or religion over nonreligion.
An inquisitive and at times combative court heard both sides in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation. The case concerns the legal question of who has standing to file lawsuits in cases dealing with the First Amendment’s religion clauses.
This case was the first time the justices dealt with President Bush’s faith-based initiative—his attempt to expand the government funding of social services through churches and religious charities. A ruling will come before the court adjourns in June.