• Last updated on November 11, 2022

For the first time since the 1920’s, the Supreme Court ruled that a taxpayer could sue the government for the misuse of government money but carefully limited the right of suit.

By an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of taxpayers could sue to stop federal funds from being spent on teaching secular subjects in parochial schools. After Frothingham v. Mellon[case]Frothingham v. Mellon[Frothingham v. Mellon] (1923), federal taxpayers lacked standing and were unable to sue on the constitutionality of federal expenditures. However, in Flast v. Cohen, the Court allowed such suits if taxpayers could demonstrate that a logical link existed between their status and the type of enactment attacked and show that the challenged enactment exceeded specific constitutional limitations. Chief Justice Earl WarrenWarren, Earl;Flast v. Cohen[Flast v. Cohen] wrote the majority opinion and was supported by concurrences from Justices William O. Douglas, Abe Fortas, and Potter Stewart. Justice John M. Harlan II dissented, fearing a large increase in inappropriate taxpayer challenges to the government. Subsequently, more conservative justices were named to the Court and the Harlan view increased in importance. In particular, the Court indicated that it would not expand the Flast ruling in United States v. Richardson[case]Richardson, United States v.[Richardson, United States v.] (1974).Religion, establishment of;Flast v. Cohen[Flast v. Cohen]Standing;Flast v. Cohen[Flast v. Cohen]

Engel v. Vitale

Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education

Lee v. Weisman

Religion, establishment of

Richardson, United States v.

Standing

Taxing and spending clause

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