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Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The Act provided grants for religious elementary school and secondary schools in the United States to purchase textbooks and instructional materials. On March 12, 1968, the Flast v. Cohen Case Brief was heard. When they bought religious books for private schools, Florence Flast believed that federal law had violated the First Amendment. She filed a lawsuit in New York to keep Wilbur Cohen, the Secretary of Health and Education, from spending the funds set aside for these schools.
Do petitioners, by their position as taxpayers, have Article III standing to confront and contest Congress's expenditures in a court of law?
To gain standing when challenging misuse of federal money, a taxpayer must demonstrate that the legislation that mishandled the taxpayer’s fund is unconstitutional and that the individual has suffered a direct injury at the end of the enforcement. The taxpayer Plaintiff must have suffered directly and not indefinitely as the general public. Yes. An American taxpayer has the right to know and dictate where the tax money is channeled in addition to the way the expenditure is utilized.
The federal government argued that within Article III, there was a limitation constitutionally. The government claimed that no taxpayer should be allowed to sue them as it is seen as just a disagreement between the government and the taxpayer. It also asserts that the matter should be left to the other branches of the government. The Court interpreted this argument as “standing should be denied, to all taxpayer standing questions, because it is a political question.” (Epstein and Walker 109). Justice Warren found the argument made by the government as lacking, considering the issue of standing was definitive only to a party’s appropriateness and does not handle the firm basis of the suit. Consequently, political questions and standing principles cannot be combined as the government had argued. A taxpayer may or may not have a standing, and hence there was no complete restriction obligated by Article III. However, the Plaintiff taxpayers might meet standing requirements that are set as per their status as long as other traditional standing requirements are considered and met.
Flast and other Plaintiffs claimed that Congress had violated the First Amendment limits that were in the Establishment Clause and thus testified a violation of the Constitution in satisfactory chance to be granted standing. The court, however, used the Frothingham case to distinguish it from the presented case revealing that the grievances bestowed were not general but rather substantial to summon federal jurisdiction and grant standing requirements (Epstein and Walker 109). The Court did not convey an opinion of merit of the main suite. John Madison observed that “the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever” (Epstein and Walker 110). This was extracted from his Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments.
Florence Flast had standing where she brought suit against the government for its acceptance and financial support towards the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. For a taxpayer to be allowed standing, they should ensure that they have established a logical connection between the status and the enacted legislative. Fundamentally, a taxpayer will be the best party to declare the unconstitutional practices of the Congress under the Tax and Spending Clause of Article I, Section 8 as stated in the Constitution. Additionally, the taxpayer should ascertain that the challenged Act surpasses particular constitutional limitations that were imposed upon the exercise of the Congress in taxation and expenditure power.
Epstein, Lee and Thomas Walker. Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Institutional powers and constraints. Congressional Quarterly, Incorporated, 1995.
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