Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Star Gets It Wrong On Bosma Prayer Case

The Star is currently running a blatantly inaccurate headline on its website concerning the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision overturning Judge David Hamilton's decision in the Indiana House of Representatives' prayer case. The headline reads: "Court overturns ban on Ind House Prayer." First, no ban was overturned by the court because Judge David Hamilton never banned prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives. He simply said the sectarian prayers delivered day-to-day in the Indiana House, which were shown by the plaintiffs in the case to be largely Christian prayers singing the praises of "Jesus Christ", amounted to the establishment of religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Hamilton emphasized in his opinion, non-sectarian prayers are not a problem. Secondly, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision based solely on the issue of the standing of the plaintiffs. It's decision is not based on the merits of the plaintiffs' complaint.

The 7th Circuit decision relies on recent case law curtailing taxpayer-initiated lawsuits on standing grounds. Under the rule enunciated in the recent Supreme Court decision in Hein, which involved a taxpayer challenge to President Bush's faith-based programs, federal taxpayers are not permitted to lodge constitutional challenges to legislative appropriations, except in the narrow circumstance where there is an established link between the taxpayer's status and the type of legislative enactment being challenged, and that link must be a direct one. In the Indiana prayer case, the Court noted the legislative prayers as carried out are not mandated by statute but rather as a matter of tradition. The Court further pointed out that there are minimal public funds spent on legislative prayers and the plaintiffs are unable to point to any specific public appropriation funding them. "The plaintiffs have not tied their status as taxpayers to the House’s allegedly unconstitutional practice of regularly offering a sectarian prayer," the Court writes. "They have not shown that the legislature has extracted from them tax dollars for the establishment and implementation of a program that violates the Establishment Clause." The Court concluded, "We are well aware of the time and energy that the parties and the district court have expended on the merits of this matter." It continued, "However, '[i]f a dispute is not a proper case or controversy, the courts have no business deciding it, or expounding the law in the course of doing so.'"

It looks like the plaintiffs in this case would have been able to overcome the standing issue if they had simply stuck to having the House's only Jewish member, Rep. David Orentlicher (D-Indianapolis) as the principle plaintiff rather than involving taxpayers in the lawsuit. It is important to remember that Brian Bosma did not win this case on the merits. This is strictly a procedural decision today which in no way decides whether it is appropriate for the Indiana House of Representatives to conduct Christian-only prayers as a matter of course.


Anonymous said...

addit to the list of weird and/or odd headlines this election season.

my favorite "does monroe gray have two jobs?" well, star, does he even have one job? does he do the job for which he earns a salary and will earn his pension in a few months?

bart's "problem solving at a cost" or something like that: it is unclear that any of the problems have been solved.

good reporting; headlines off the mark. these are the same people making errors in their own endorsements and editorials. i like RiShawn Biddle and the new voice he brings but jeez, he said vern brown was running unopposed (since corrected)!

Anonymous said...

It's the Star. It is really a terrible newspaper so I am not surprised.

Anonymous said...

Actually, both you and the Hinrichs majorit get the Hein holding wrong: it dealt with executive appropriations, not legislative ones.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing my indignance at that headline.

The mischaracterizations as to what this case was about have been as bad as the underlying practice.

Anonymous said...

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We need neighborhood walkers this weekend walking neighborhoods.

We have to get 700 yard signs out to the polling locations early Tuesday morning.

We need people making phone calls at Angie's List headquarters on East Washington St. this weekend.

Also need volunteers to be assigned as watchers in Center Township to keep an eye on our opponents.

This is our change to take our City back from 8 years of corruption.

Please call 635-8881
Mary or Flipper

Thank You......flipper

Anonymous said...

Gary, you might want to check out the Indiana Family Institue's blogside Veritas Rex this morning. It's escatic over the decision, and carries a comment saying "Take THAT, Mr. Orentlicher", a reference to the only Jewish member of the Indiana House.

Anonymous said...

AI: I'm not sure about the specific headline you refer to in your initial post, but the "City Final" edition of the star banners "Court answers only part of House prayer" on its front page. Maybe they heard you.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Don, If you click through the link to the story, you will see the headline.