Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005
CNS—which allegedly stands for Cybercast News Service, but must really stand for Christian News Service—recently reported on the “Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005.” Although the name says 2005, the bill is still in committee. The bill should actually be called the “Wall of Separation Brick Removal Act.”
Christian News Service reports:
The “Christmas tree wars,” fought each year over public religious displays often end up in court, but congressional legislation taken up recently by a House Judiciary subcommittee would prohibit damages and attorney fees from being awarded to plaintiffs in such First Amendment cases.
As you can see, since the fundies know they’re in the wrong and have no shot at winning the cases, they look for creative ways to keep the cases out of the courts in the first place. CNS continues:
The battles over public religious displays, which happen year-round, but are more prevalent during the Christmas season, revolve around the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
I’m surprised. I didn’t think the fundies even knew that the Establishment Clause existed. They always act so surprised when they lose these cases.
I think this another example of the selective reading technique so popular among fundies. They only see “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion].”
Or maybe they do see the first phrase, but their holy dyslexia only allows them to see “Congress shall make [a] law respecting an establishment of religion.”
The CNS article continues:
Civil libertarians often refer to the clause as “the constitutional separation of church and state,” words that do not actually appear in the Constitution.
Fundies love to throw around this bogus argument. The principle of separation is clearly enshrined in the First Amendment. If the popular name for a concept is not mentioned, that does not necessarily mean that the concept itself isn’t there.
This is just a smoke-and-mirrors diversion. When fundies say that the words “separation of church and state” don’t appear in the Constitution, they are hoping that you have the intelligence of an Irish Setter and will believe that means that the Constitution is silent on the topic.
Besides, let’s follow their logic to its conclusion. Jesus is not mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore, this is not a Christian country! Oops! I don’t think they want to go there.
Conservatives believe the First Amendment gives them the right to practice their religion in public without interference from the government.
And conservatives would be correct. Anybody can go anywhere in public and prey pray and not be stopped. However, the First Amendment clearly states that the government can not establish religious displays.
Again, this is smoke-and-mirrors. Religious freedom is one of our most fundamental rights. It is a right that we should all feel strongly about. The fundies pretend like “civil libertarians” are running around trying to take that away from us.
PERA (H.R. 2679), proposed by Rep. John Hostettler, (R-Ind.) would amend two federal laws (42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988) that the congressman reportedly said are currently used by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “to extort behavior out of individuals.”
They finally get to the heart of the matter! The right-wing’s favorite whipping boy, the ACLU! This is one of those Pavlovian triggers that the conservatives have managed to train their followers to salivate over every time they hear the bell. “Gay marriage,” *DING!* “Roe v. Wade,” *DING!* “Partial-birth abortion,” *DING!* “Planned Parenthood,” *DING!* “Women’s suffrage,” *DING!* “The Emancipation Proclamation,” *DING!* “Homosexuals,” *DING! DING! DING!*
If PERA is not enacted, Staver said frivolous litigation by the ACLU will drain the funds that the federal government needs to spend on infrastructure and education.
“Frivolous”? Since when is protecting the rights of citizens from an over-reaching government “frivolous”? If the government truly wants to “spend [money] on infrastructure and education,” all they have to do is avoid wasting money on public displays of religion.
Rees Lloyd, a former ACLU employee . . . also testified in favor of the bill. “As a former ACLU attorney, I know to a certainty that the ACLU’s litigation is carried out by staff attorneys, or by pro bono attorneys who are in fact precluded from receiving fees under the ACLU’s own policies,” said Lloyd.
First of all, if it is done by staff attorneys, that costs the ACLU money. They should be compensated for that time. The pro bono statement is interesting, though. I would be curious to know what the rules are in all lawsuits, not just Establishment suits. This probably occurs in all cases. If that seems unfair, then change the law for all lawsuits with pro bono representation. Don’t single out just the people you don’t like.
That’s another issue. I wonder if this bill violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. They’re effectively saying that people whose religious freedoms have been infringed are not entitled to the same protection from the courts that everyone else has.
Lloyd also cited the Redlands, Calif., City Council, which voted to remove the cross in 2005 from its City Seal because the ACLU threatened to sue. Lloyd said the only reason given for the vote was the fear that court-awarded attorney fees would take away taxpayer funds needed for city services.
That’s exactly why this bill must be defeated! The current system works. The only reason the city was afraid, is because they knew they would lose. They knew they were infringing the religious freedom of many of their citizens.
Marc Stern of the American Jewish Congress, an opponent of the PERA bill . . . said PERA was proposed and supported by people with the “mistaken view that Establishment Clause litigation is brought only by those who detest religion, and who seek a naked public square.”
According to Stern, “the only practical way to make sure that all these claims” regarding alleged violations of the Establishment Clause, “can be heard is to ensure that access to the courts is on an equal footing.”
Marc Stern has hit the nail in the wrist. Fundies don’t want an equal footing. They are “God’s chosen people.” They “know” they are right. Anybody who has not accepted Jesus Christ as his Personal Lord and Savior™ (hallelujah!) is under Satan’s influence. So why would they want Satan to have equal access to the courts?