WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to step into a dispute over the Bush administration's promotion of federal financing for faith-based charities.
The program has been a staple of President Bush's political agenda since 2001, when he created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
The case under review grew out of a lawsuit filed by a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The group claims the Bush administration violates a constitutional ban on state-supported religions by singling out particular faith-based organizations as worthy of federal funding.
The government tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal appeals court ruled that the foundation's members are taxpayers who are entitled to sue over a program funded by Congress.
In written arguments filed with the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Paul Clement said the appeals court had transformed a narrow exception in law into a "roving license" for citizens to challenge any action of the executive branch of government.
The solicitor general's office says the Supreme Court should reaffirm "fundamental limits" on taxpayer challenges.
In fiscal 2005, religious charities received $2.15 billion in federal grants to administer a range of social service programs for the needy, the White House says. That was 7 percent higher than the year before, and represented 10.9 percent of the total grants from the seven federal agencies that are allowed to issue the money to faith-based groups.
The case is Dennis Grace v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, 06-157.