Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Protestant Chaplains Lack Standing To Challenge Navy's Retirement Policy

The D.C. federal district court has dismissed on standing grounds an Establishment Clause challenge to a practice by the U.S. Navy that permitted 23 reserve corps Catholic chaplains to remain on active duty past age 60 so that they could obtain the 20 years' service needed for their pensions to vest. A group of non-liturgical Protestant chaplains and their endorsing organization claimed this amounted to a denominational preference. In re: Navy Chaplaincy, (D DC, Oct. 15, 2007), because plaintiffs did not claim that non-liturgicals were denied the same opportunity; rather they argued that the Navy's practice communicates a message of preference that constitutes a per se injury. The court rejected this argument. It also rejected plaintiffs' attempt to invoke taxpayer standing, since plaintiffs were not challenging Congressional action under the taxing and spending clause. The case was on remand from the Court of Appeals which, last year, held plaintiffs had shown irreparable injury (see prior posting).