Tuesday, June 05, 2012

7th Circuit: No Taxpayer Standing To Challenge Bald Knob Cross Grant

In Sherman v. State of Illinois, (7th Cir., June 4, 2012), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that activist and atheist Robert Sherman lacks taxpayer standing to challenge a $20,000 grant by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to Friends of the Cross for restoration of the Bald Knob Cross, an Illinois tourist attraction. Nor can he force Friends of the Cross to return the funds to the state.  Under the Supreme Court's decision in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc., taxpayers have standing to bring an Establishment Clause challenge only where funds have been spent pursuant to a legislative mandate, and not where the spending decision was an administrative one under a general appropriation. The 7th Circuit held that the procedure in Illinois under which an administrative agency makes grants from a general appropriation pursuant to patronage-based decisions from legislative political leaders is not the same as a specific legislative appropriation. The court said:
It is not enough to say that Friends was "specifically selected" by the legislative leadership for the grant, as we see no room in the Supreme Court’s decisions for the Realpolitik approach that Sherman urges.
(See prior related posting.)