CHICAGO (CN) – A pair of taxpayers do not have standing to sue Notre Dame University for the return of $500,000 in grant money to fund a teacher-training program for Catholic schools in poor neighborhoods, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Daniel Cook and Joan Laskowski objected to the Congressional earmark of these funds for the college. They claimed that the grant violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which calls for the separation of church and state.
The grant money was paid to Notre Dame, and the district court dismissed the lawsuit as moot.
Cook and Laskowski then tried to get the district court to order the secretary of education to demand a repayment of the funds. The circuit court quashed that argument, since an agency’s refusal to act is not reviewable.
However, the suit continued because the circuit court ruled that Notre Dame could be ordered to pay the money back.
This led to the current case, and Judge Sykes ruled that the plaintiffs lack standing to ask Notre Dame to return the money.
“The general rule is that a plaintiff has standing to sue only for injuries to his own interests that can be remedied by a court order,” Sykes ruled.
Sykes added that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit does not qualify for exemption to that rule, because they are not challenging a specific congressional appropriation but are instead targeting a private grant recipient.