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Urge the House to oppose the Public Expression of Religion Act (H.R. 2679)

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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 04:58 PM
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Urge the House to oppose the Public Expression of Religion Act (H.R. 2679)


Urge the House of Representatives to oppose the Public Expression of Religion Act (H.R. 2679).

ACTION

Please call, e-mail, or fax your Representatives and urge them to oppose the Public Expression of Religion Act (HR 2679). This legislation would make it more difficult to oppose organizations and local governments that seek to establish a specific religion in the public sphere.

You can reach your representative by dialing the Capitol Switchboard toll-free at 877-762-8762 and asking to speak with your Representatives office, or click here to send a letter.
http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizationsORG/aha/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=4847


BACKGROUND

One of the bills scheduled for a vote this summer in Congress, as part of the Republican American Values Agenda, is the Public Expression of Religion Act (HR 2679). This law seeks to eliminate the award of damages and attorney fees from defendants to plaintiffs who are victorious in cases concerning public expressions of religion.

If passed, this bill would severely limit the resources of plaintiffs who fight for a fair interpretation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause. The bill purports to eliminate the chilling effect on the constitutionally protected expression of religion by State and local officials that results from the threat that potential litigants may seek damages and attorney's fees. However, these litigants are only awarded attorneys fees if their claims are found valid and thus unconstitutional. Under current law, the frivolous lawsuits commonly cited in attempts to reduce attorneys fees are not funded by taxpayer dollars but rather are financed by the losing litigants.

Furthermore, though supporters have argued that groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have reaped enormous compensation from such suits, the reality is that the awarding of attorneys fees is essential to maintaining a fair judicial system. These suits often involve a substantial amount of time and effort that is simply not feasible for most attorneys to undertake on a pro bono basis. The bill would actually create a far more chilling effect in its restriction of challenges to First Amendment freedoms.

If the Public Expression of Religion Act passes it will set a precedent for future restrictions on the ability to gain attorneys fees and costs for constitutional violations that are unpopular with any particular political majority at the moment. The current system does not reimburse attorneys fees for unsubstantiated cases, and it maintains the impartiality of our courts by allowing the judiciary to interpret constitutional concerns as laid out in the Constitution.


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