Sunday, January 18, 2009


Object Lesson

The State of Louisiana doesn't have the best record on maintaining the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The ACLU sued the state over:

... the constitutionality of a general appropriations measure, House Bill 1, which was signed into law in July 2007 by former Governor Kathleen Blanco. Among other things, the measure directed taxpayer earmarks in the amounts of $100,000 to one church in Bossier City and $20,000 to another church in Shreveport. The ACLU lawsuit initially covered those two grants and was later expanded to include an additional six earmarks to other houses of worship in Louisiana. The challenged grants were not subject to any oversight or competitive bidding process and the bill offered no purpose or justification for them.

In October of 2007, U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction against disbursing the funds appropriated under the Bill on a finding that the unrestricted earmarks:

... "fall within the core proscription of the Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment that protects religious liberty. Judge Vance also found that "these non-neutral, direct money grants of taxpayer funds to favored houses of worship are clearly unconstitutional."

A settlement has now been reached whereby the state of Louisiana agreed to stop funneling taxpayer-funded grants to certain selected churches.

This agreement restores important constitutional protections to Louisiana's infamous earmarking process. No longer will government officials be allowed use taxpayer dollars to fund their favorite churches," said Katie Schwartzmann, Legal Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "And while we are gratified that the state agreed to end this practice, we will remain vigilant to ensure that Louisiana is held to its constitutional responsibilities."

Similar to the aftermath of the Dover Intelligent Design case, the settlement also calls for the state to pay for the ACLU's costs and attorneys' fees.

I hope the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and all the local school boards in the state are listening.

Via Dispatches From the Culture Wars

Will these people ever learn?
I hate to be crass but, as a lawyer, I consider them a full-employment ... um ... godsend.
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