Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Colorado Supreme Court: FFRF Lacks Standing To Challenge Day of Prayer Proclamations

In a 5-2 decision yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court held that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its members lack standing to challenge the Governor's annual Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations. The suit claimed that the proclamations violate Art. II, Sec. 4 of the Colorado Constitution which prohibits the government from giving preference to any religious denomination.  In Hickenlooper v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc., (CO Sup. Ct., Nov. 24, 2014), the majority said in part:
Although we do not question the sincerity of Respondents’ feelings, without more, their circuitous exposure to the honorary proclamations and concomitant belief that the proclamations expressed the Governor’s preference for religion is simply too indirect and incidental an injury to confer individual standing. To hold otherwise would render the injury-in-fact requirement superfluous, as any person who learned of a government action through the media and felt politically marginalized as a result of that secondhand media exposure would have individual standing to sue the government. Because such a result would stretch our already broad conceptualization of individual standing beyond recognition and thrust the judiciary beyond its article III limits, we hold that Respondents have not alleged an injury sufficient to establish individual standing.
Justice Hood, joined by Justice Hobbs, dissented. They would have found standing, but concluded that the proclamations do not violate the state constitution's Preference Clause, saying in part:
If our “tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith,” then it must also be assumed that adult citizens can tolerate something far less intrusive: a proclamation urging appreciation of the power of a prayer.