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    ICRF v. Maryland Motion to Dismiss: Plaintiff's Staniding PDF Print E-mail


    Defendants argue that plaintiffs lack standing because they have failed to raise factual allegations necessary to find a justiciable controversy. The argument is predicated upon pretending that defendants’ description of the plaintiffs’ background constitutes the sole relevant facts, and argued that such facts presented are insufficient to provide standing. Defendants are mistaken.

    Finding that standing inquiries in Establishment Clause claims must be tailored to reflect the type of injuries that Establishment Clause plaintiffs are likely to suffer, the Fourth Circuit stated:

    [T]he Establishment Clause plaintiff is not likely to suffer physical injury or pecuniary loss. Rather "the spiritual, value-laden beliefs of the plaintiffs" are often most directly affected by an alleged establishment of religion. [citations omitted] Accordingly, rules of standing recognize that noneconomic or intangible injury may suffice to make an Establishment Clause claim justiciable. Valley Forge [Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 486, 102 S.Ct. 752, 765-66]; Smith v. County of Albemarle, 895 F.2d 953, 955 (4th Cir.1990).

    Suhre v. Haywood County, 131 F.3d 1083,1086 (4th Cir. 1997).

    The Court also addressed the concept of the generalized federal standing requirement of a sufficient "stake in the outcome of the proceedings" discussed in the context of Establishment Clause issues in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1952, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968) ("The gist of the question of standing’ is whether the party seeking relief has ‘alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentations of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.") The Suhre court found sufficient stake in the proceedings warranting finding standing for the plaintiff in that action by noting that the Supreme Court has recognized "‘a spiritual stake in First Amendment values sufficient to give standing to raise issues concerning the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause’" to those persons directly affected by alleged violations of the First Amendment. Id., citing, Association of Data Processing Serv. Orgs., Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 154, 90 S.Ct. 827, 830, 25 L.Ed.2d 184 (1970) (interpreting School District of Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 83 S.Ct. 1560, 10 L.Ed.2d 844 (1963).)

    The plaintiffs in this case received both specific and general injury and a certain and special "stake" in the challenged governmental actions at issue. The Task Force Report, based upon bigoted statements of antagonistic members of competing religions, issued a Report derogatory of "cults" including specifically the Unification Church of which these plaintiffs are public members.

    Plaintiff John Alexander Colvin resides in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and is an enrolled student in the University of Baltimore, Maryland University System. (Ex. 19, Declaration of Alex Colvin). Mr. Colvin is a member of a targeted minority religious organization, the Unification Church, also an employee of the Maryland University System who believes that his employment is being jeopardized by the activities of the Task Force and the chilling effect created by the University System’s investigation into the religious affiliations of its employees. His daughter, Hanalyn Colvin, is a high school student in Anne Arundel County who is considering enrolling in the Maryland University System. As a result of the Task Force proceedings and the subsequent Task Force Report, Ms. Colvin has been intimidated from pursuing these potential college plans and may be forced to travel out of state to continue her education because of the chill to her free exercise of religion, the detrimental effect the activities of the Task Force portend for her future employment opportunities, and the prejudicial atmosphere being established in Maryland arising out of the activities complained of herein. (Id.)

    Plaintiffs, Dan Fefferman and Susan Fefferman, who reside in Prince George’s County, are concerned that their 17 year old daughter, who is planning to attend a Maryland University System school upon graduation from high school, will, because of the atmosphere of "cult activities" generated by the defendants, be subject to harassment and scrutiny arising out of her parent’s religious beliefs. (Ex. 20, Declaration of Dan Fefferman.)

    Plaintiff Michael Roschuni is a resident of Prince George’s County and is a current undergraduate student at the University of Maryland at College Park. Mr. Roschuni is also a member of the Unification Church targeted by the Task Force and its Report, whose right to practice and promulgate his religious beliefs has been chilled by defendants’ conduct. (Id.) Plaintiff Lloyd Eby resides in Prince George’s County, and has three children attending public schools in that county. Dr. Eby holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, and is a member of the faculty of the University of Maryland College Park. He is also a member of the Unification Church. Because the Task Force is attempting to single out and attack, investigate, or otherwise harass his religious belief and activity by calling it "cult activity," his ability to continue with his profession and to promulgate and practice his religious beliefs is chilled and threatened by the activities of the Task Force and the acts of the defendants. (Id.)

    Plaintiff International Coalition for Religious Freedom is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all people, regardless of race, gender, creed or nationality. (Ex. 20, Declaration of Dan Fefferman.) Several of plaintiff’s officers and members are residents of the State of Maryland, participated in the State University system, and are directly affected by the governmental conduct at issue in this case. (Id.)

    Plaintiffs Dan Fefferman, Susan Fefferman, Alex Colvin and Hanalyn Colvin were all active participants in the legislative actions giving rise to the Task Force Report. (Ex. 20, Declaration of Dan Fefferman; Ex. 19, Declaration of Alex Colvin.) All three vigorously challenged the issuance of the Report because it manifestly targeted their religion. All three were the victims of discriminatory acts by the Task Force during the Task Force proceedings, including commentary from one of the Task Force members to them: "I do not care what you say because I know that the Unification Church is a hateful and deceptive organization." Id.

    Because the injuries described above are caused both by the Resolution and subsequent Report, and the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct, it would be redressed by invalidation of the legislative act. Indeed, subsequent issuance of the Report with its attendant publicity has only enhanced the standing of the plaintiffs and increases the likelihood that relief can be acquired through the issuance of a judgment declaring the Cult Resolution to have been an unlawful exercise of legislative authority, and the subsequent report a continuing and further violation of law and the plaintiffs’ rights – as well as thousands of other persons similarly situated to the named plaintiffs. Therefore, plaintiffs meet the generalized "case or controversy" requirement for standing imposed by Article III, as well as the "more permissive" standing requirements in Establishment Clause cases. Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization v. City of Clearwater, 2 F.3d 1514, 1525 (11th Cir. 1993); California Bankers Ass’n v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21, 44-45, 68-69, 76, 94 S.Ct. 1494, 1509, 1521, 1524-25, 39 L.Ed.2d 812 (1974). As noted in City of Clearwater:

    Just as the Establishment Clause "does not depend upon any showing of direct governmental compulsion and is violated by the enactment of laws which establish an official religion whether those laws operate directly to coerce nonobserving individuals or not," Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 430, 82 S.Ct. 1261, 1267, 8 L.Ed.2d 601 (1962), so also does the clause prohibit the casting of official disfavor upon a particular sect even though its members are not directly regulated. Religious groups and their members that are singled out for discriminatory government treatment by official harassment or symbolic conduct analogous to defamation have standing to seek redress in federal courts. Church of Scientology v. Cazares, 638 F.2d 1272, 1279-80 (5th Cir.1981); see also, e.g., Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 755, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 3326, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984) (noting that stigmatic injury associated with invidious official conduct is cognizable for standing purposes if the plaintiff is directly affected).

    Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization v. City of Clearwater, 2 F.3d at 1525.

    The individual plaintiffs are directly affected, their religions officially stigmatized, and their future ability to practice and promulgate their religion chilled by the Resolution and the Report.

    The organizational plaintiffs also have standing to seek declaratory relief respecting the Resolution and Report and the unlawful conduct of the Task Force. Both the International Coalition for Religious Freedom – which is closely associated with and draws the majority of its members and support from the Unification Church – and the Council on Religious Freedom have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Resolution and the Report on behalf of their members.

    The district court in North Carolina Civil Liberties Union, et al. v. Constangy, 751 F.Supp. 552, 553 (W.D. N.C.1990), assumed standing of the plaintiffs to challenge the opening of court with a prayer, based only upon the following stated facts:

    Plaintiff North Carolina Civil Liberties Union is a non-profit North Carolina corporation which holds itself out as being devoted to securing and defending the rights, privileges and immunities guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of North Carolina, and as having a special interest in the rights protected by the First Amendment. A number of its members live in Charlotte and may be subject to being ordered to attend Judge Constangy’s courtroom as witnesses or defendants in the same manner as any other citizens or group of citizens.

    The individual plaintiffs are attorneys licensed to practice in Judge Constangy’s court. Each individual plaintiff has been present for at least one recitation of Judge Constangy’s court-opening prayer.

    The Fourth Circuit similarly assumed standing on these facts – which demonstrate far less personal stake in the outcome of the establishment cause proceedings than displayed by the plaintiffs here.

    North Carolina Civil Liberties Union Legal Foundation v. Constangy, 947 .2d 1145 (4th Cir. 1991).

    Moreover, each of the plaintiffs have independent standing as taxpayers to bring the action under the circumstances of this case. Aside from past expenditures, the recommendation of the Report calls for the establishment of various bodies, administrative lines and functions as set forth above. These functions and activities will require the expenditure of new funds by the State to implement, which are derived from state revenues.

    In Koenick v. Felton, 190 F.3d 259 (4th Cir.1999), a public school teacher challenged a Maryland statute which provided for school holidays the Friday before Easter through the following Monday. The Fourth Circuit found the plaintiff possessed taxpayer standing to challenge the statute as a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Court applied the standard from Doremus v. Board of Education, 342 U.S. 429, 72 S.Ct. 394, stating that:

    [T]he Supreme Court explained that a taxpayer has standing to challenge a statute when he is able to show that he "has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of [the challenged statute’s] enforcement." Id. at 434 (citations omitted). Such a direct injury has been found when the challenged statute involves the expenditure of state tax revenues. See, Cammack v. Waihee, 932 F.2d 765, 769 (9th Cir.1991). This principle has been interpreted to justify finding that a municipal taxpayer has standing in cases where the litigant’s only injury is the alleged improper expenditure of municipal funds. See id. at 770 ("[W]e conclude that municipal taxpayer standing simply requires the ‘injury’ of an allegedly improper expenditure of municipal funds....").

    Applying this standard, Koenick has standing as a taxpayer in Montgomery County. In her complaint, Koenick alleges that she is injured by the expenditures of her tax revenues towards the paid holiday on the Friday before and the Monday after Easter for public school employees. It is undisputed that these tax revenues fund the public school system in the County and thereby fund the paid, statutory holidays for school employees such as that required by § 7-103(c)(1)(iii). Because Koenick is a taxpayer who indirectly bears the burden of funding a paid public school holiday around Easter, we find that she has standing to pursue her appeal.

    Koenick v. Felton, 190 F.3d at 263.

    The Fourth Circuit also stated that an even lesser standard would apply to taxpayer standing in Establishment Clause cases:

    Although they concerned the display of religious symbols in public settings, in both Suhre v. Haywood County, 131 F.3d at 1086, and Smith v. County of Albemarle, 895 F.2d 953, 955 (4th Cir.1990), we applied an even more permissive standard, finding that noneconomic or intangible injuries may suffice to render an Establishment Clause claim justiciable. See Suhre, 131 F.3d at 1086; Smith, 895 F.2d at 955.

    Koenick, supra, fn. 3.

    Pursuant to this standard, plaintiffs Alex Colvin and Lloyd Eby – both of whom are employees in the Maryland University System – have at least equal factual standing as the Koenick plaintiff. Indeed, each of these state employees has greater factual standing than the Koenick plaintiff, because each is not only offended because of the establishment of religion by the Task Force Resolution and subsequent report – their religion as one of the primary alleged "cults" addressed by the Task Force acts and its Report, giving them a personal stake in the dis-establishment of their own faith.

    Thus, each of the individual and organizational plaintiffs also possess taxpayer standing to assert Establishment Clause challenges to the legislative acts at issue.




    A. Legislative History of the Cult Task Force Resolution
    B. The Task Force Report Continued the Violations of Plaintiffs’ Constitutional Rights