A View From The Handbasket

Monday, September 18, 2006
GOP: First Amendment protections not worth paying for
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:04 AM

As noted on NPR this morning, but conspicuously absent from mainstream media (a Google News search turned up only press releases from various interest groups), the full House will soon vote on the "Public Expression of Religion Act." Here's the summary of the bill, from the bill itself:

To amend the Revised Statutes of the United States 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.

And here's the important part:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a court shall not award reasonable fees and expenses of attorneys to the prevailing party on a claim of injury consisting of the violation of a prohibition in the Constitution against the establishment of religion brought against the United States or any agency or any official of the United States acting in his or her official capacity in any court having jurisdiction over such claim, and the remedies with respect to such a claim shall be limited to injunctive and declaratory relief.

English translation: the theocrats know that they can't win Establishment Clause cases on legal merit, as their track record in court is abysmal. So, they seek to stop lawsuits before they begin by not allowing legal fees to be paid by the defense in the event the plaintiff wins. Which means that you can only bring suit against First Amendment violations if you are able to pay for legal representation out of your own pocket, or if the lawyer is willing to work for free. This leaves aspiring theocrats at all levels of government free to use government money to promote the religion of their choice without the "chilling effect" of being held accountable for their violations of the Constitution.

At this point, it would be easier to discuss what parts of the Consitution *haven't* been subjected to shredding by the current party in power. If they didn't get so much money from the NRA, that list would be even smaller.

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