US flag burningRob Erikson pointed me towards an utterly shocking article by Erwin Chemerinsky, Professor of Law and Political Science, at Duke University.

One week ago, the Republican controlled House quietly passed H.R. 2679: Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005. This little beauty prevents attorneys, who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, from recovering attorney’s fees. But gasmonso, what on God’s green earth does this mean?

Chemerinsky says it best,

The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

Ok, here’s how it goes. About 30 years ago, Congress, in a brief moment of clarity, passed federal statute, 42 United States Code section 1988. This statute simply dictates that a plaintiff can recoup attorney’s fees if he/she successfully proves that their constitutional or civil rights were violated. The purpose of this is quite simple and two-fold. It offers people who can’t afford an attorney the opportunity to hire one and take the offender to court. Secondly, it keeps frivolous lawsuits down because attorneys will be less likely to take the case if it’s apparent that it’s without merit. So it serves a noble purpose.

So why is this bill evil? Well it is specific to matters of a religion. Whether you have a valid case or not, this bill prevents an individual from recovering attorney’s fees. Say for example you have religion being imposed on your child in a public school. Under the current law, the average person could take the school district to court because they would likely win the battle and recoup the attorney’s fees. Now think about it. Those fees can and most likely will be very expensive because you’re up against the school system who feeds off the public tax trough. The only way me or you could possibly bring this suit against the school is by having federal statute 42 on our side. Get it now?

If you didn’t check the previous link, here is the party breakdown for passage of this bill:

   Democrat     Republican     Independent
Aye   26  217  0
Nay  166  6  1
 Absent  9  6  0

How do you feel about this story? How do you feel about it receiving absolutely no attention in the media? I want to hear from both religious and non-religious folks as well as US and non-US readers. Thanks!

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