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AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION v. REAGAN

May 8, 1985

AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, et al.
v.
RONALD W. REAGAN, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FULLAM

 FULLAM, J.

 On January 10, 1984, the United States Department of State issued the following formal announcement:

 
"The United States of America and the Holy See, in the desire to further promote the existing mutual friendly relations, have decided by common agreement to establish diplomatic relations between them at the level of embassy on the part of the United States of America, and Nunciature on the part of the Holy See, as of today, January 10, 1984."

 President Reagan announced that he would nominate the Honorable William A. Wilson, who had been serving as his personal representative to the Vatican, as United States Ambassador to the Vatican; Mr. Wilson's nomination was confirmed by the Senate on March 7, 1984.

 Plaintiffs, a group of 20 religious organizations and 12 of the officials of these organizations, together with some 71 individual members of the clergy of various denominations, have brought this lawsuit challenging the adoption and implementation of these arrangements, on a variety of constitutional grounds. The defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss.

 Plaintiffs assert four categories of claims, which may be summarized as follows:

 
1. By confirming the appointment of Ambassador Wilson and by providing funds to support his activities, Congress has violated the First Amendment because the arrangement (a) establishes a formal official relationship with a church, (b) amounts to a preference of one church over all other churches, (c) provides special benefits to one church to the detriment of all others, (d) produces excessive entanglement of the government in church affairs and vice-versa, and (e) creates religious divisiveness.
 
2. The President has exceeded his Article II powers, since the Holy See is a church, not a state; moreover, the President's actions contravene the First Amendment, for the reasons mentioned above.
 
3. The arrangement violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
 
4. The defendants have violated the Constitution in various specific ways, including (a) supporting the Catholic Church, to the detriment of all others, (b) spending tax dollars for the benefit of the Catholic Church and its prelates, (c) supporting the Catholic Church in its efforts to counteract and nullify the influence of foreign missionaries allied with other churches, and (d) cooperating with the Catholic Church in investigating other United States religious organizations.

 The defendants disagree with plaintiffs' constitutional arguments, but assert, preliminarily, that plaintiffs lack standing to bring this lawsuit, and that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over these "political questions".

 I. BACKGROUND

 At the time of the American Revolution, and during the first several decades of our nation's history, what we now think of as the Vatican or the Holy See included the Papal States, an area of some 16,000 square miles with a population in excess of 3 million, whose temporal as well as spiritual ruler was the Pope. Amicable commercial relationships between the Papal States and this country were established shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War. A United ...


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