Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Student Has Standing Under Establishment Clause To Challenge School's Christian Fundraising

In American Humanist Association, Inc. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, (10th Cir, June 20, 2017), the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that one of the plaintiffs challenging a Colorado public school's Christian fundraising efforts has standing to bring an Establishment Clause challenge seeking retrospective relief. However the 10th Circuit agreed with the district court (see prior posting) that the other plaintiffs do not have standing. The appeals court said in part:
Although we have no doubt that plaintiffs are genuinely and fervently committed to righting what they view as an injustice, “a generalized grievance, no matter how sincere, is insufficient to confer standing.”.... Most of the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they or their children experienced “personal and unwelcome contact with government-sponsored religious” activities.....  Further, they have not made out a case for municipal taxpayer standing because they have not shown an expenditure of municipal funds on the challenged activities.
The sole exception is plaintiff Jane Zoe. She contends that DCSD violated the Establishment Clause when school officials announced they were “partnering” with a Christian student group and solicited her and her son for donations to a “mission trip.” The district court held that because Zoe’s contacts with the challenged actions were not conspicuous or constant, she did not suffer an injury for standing purposes.  We find no support in our jurisprudence for the proposition that an injury must meet some threshold of pervasiveness to satisfy Article III.
American Humanist Association issued a press release announcing the decision.