Doe v. Norton

AU's Role: 
AU's Involvement Began: 
December 2004

In November 2004, Congress authorized $10 million in federal funds to be spent for repairing historic missions in California — virtually all of which are fully functioning houses of worship — and for restoring the religious art and artifacts at those missions. The act violates longstanding constitutional prohibitions against using government money to repair or maintain houses of worship. In December 2004, two days after the act was signed, AU filed a lawsuit challenging it in federal district court in the District of Columbia. We originally filed the lawsuit on behalf of federal taxpayers, but we later amended the complaint to add several non-Catholic clergy as well as a couple whose request to be married at one of the affected missions was denied on the ground that they were not Catholic. On March 18, 2005, the Court granted our motion to allow the plaintiffs to proceed under pseudonyms. Thereafter, the government moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground that it was premature because Congress has not yet appropriated funds under the law — a motion to which we responded on May 26, 2005. Various California missions, as well a number of private individuals who like to visit the missions, sought to intervene in the lawsuit. We opposed intervention by the individuals (but not the missions) in a filing on May 31, 2005. Because more than a year passed during which Congress declined to appropriate any funds under the act, AU voluntarily dismissed the suit in January 2006. If and when Congress appropriates the funds, we can consider re-filing the action.

Most Recent Developments: