Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Putting the "Free" Back in "Free Exercise"

I posted this a couple of weeks ago (May 8, actually), but I think with the introduction of the Bill in the House of Representatives on May 26 it probably needs to go up again:

We all know the ACLU loves suing to "vindicate the religious rights" of those who feel "offended" when they see the Ten Commandments on public property or hear a prayer at a high-school football game. What you may not know is that, under the current law, if the ACLU wins these suits they are entitled, under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, to collect, "a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs..." Well, that doesn't sound so bad, until you start to look at what the ACLU actually collects in "reasonable attorney's fees" to vindicate somebody's hurt feelings! According to News With Views, Alabama got soaked for $540,000 for Judge Moore and the Ten Commandments case. When they stopped the Boy Scouts from using Balboa Park in San Diego for a summer camp, the taxpayers got hammered for $790,000 in "reasonable fees."

Every time the ACLU takes on a municipality, the municipality is forced to ask itself whether displaying the Ten Commandments, or a cross, or saying a public prayer is worth going to court for when the gamble is not just that they will have to remove the "offending" item or cease the "offending" practice. They have to look down the barrel of the ACLU's attorney's fee gun and ask themselves how lucky they feel. Obviously, this creates a huge "chilling effect;" it is easier to cave to the ACLU's demands than risk getting a liberal judge who might find saying "bless you!" after a sneeze an unconscionable display of religion.

Hopefully Representative John Hostettler will be successful in curbing the ACLU's out of control litigiousness when he introduces an amendment to the Attorney's Fees Act that would remove establishment of religion cases from its purview. Such an amendment would make bringing these actions much less attractive to the ACLU as well as giving it less leverage against financially beleaguered school districts and municipalities.

The reasoning for amending the attorney's fees law in cases involving religious liberty is relatively simple--"Every other civil right case, there is some injury to somebody," American Legion attorney Rees Lloyd of Banning, California, told a Thursday rally in front of ACLU's Los Angeles offices. "Somebody lost their job ... somebody got beat up by authorities – they have some physical, mental, economic injury. But in an Establishment Clause case, it is someone who says, 'I take offense,' and the offense is based on religions, politics, philosophy, but there is no injury." World Net Daily

In other words, there should no longer be a bonanza for the ACLU every time somebody's feelings get hurt.

The Pulpit Pounder encourages readers to contact their elected officials and voice support for this legislation. We need to stop allowing the ACLU to use the threat of attorney's fees as a lever to destroy our religious freedoms. For additional info, go to Stop the ACLU.

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