Friday, November 23, 2007

US anti-religious group loses standing to fight lawsuits

In a move that might well signal a move toward reasonable accommodation of religious practice in public spaces, the American Civil Liberties Union was refused standing in two recent decisions.

The legal concept of “standing” discourages nuisance lawsuits by requiring that the plaintiff (person who is suing) has suffered actual harm. For example, if my neighbour builds a shrine in his back yard and prays there, I do not suffer actual harm in the eyes of the law simply because I think the shrine is ugly, and anyway I belong to a different religion that just doesn’t “do” back yard shrines.

However, the ACLU had - for years - got courts to agree to waive the requirement of showing actual harm. But now, courts are digging in their heels.

Columnist Jared Lorence explains:
Two federal appellate courts said “enough” and have recently thrown out ACLU lawsuits brought to stop prayer before the Indiana Legislature and a school board in Louisiana because the ACLU’s clients had suffered no harm—that is, they “lacked standing” to bring a lawsuit in the first place. So, rulings on “standing” are now protecting public prayer.

He adds,
The ACLU and its allies have been getting away with this for decades. Representing clients that have experienced no real harm, they have succeeded in eliminating ceremonies and other practices mentioning God and our nation’s dependence on Him, some of which date back to before the founding of our Republic. But finally the courts are waking up. They are imposing the standing rules across the board and rejecting these lawsuits until the ACLU finds someone who has actually been harmed by the government’s actions.

“Harmed”, notice, not merely “offended”. Let alone convinced that the world would be a better place if everyone had to do whatever they told us.