House Approves Act Protecting Freedom of Religious Expression

This should get full support from each of us. There is no reason for a city to decide not to fight a lawsuit just because of a fear of having to pay court cost.

(AgapePress) – Conservative groups are commending the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a bill on Tuesday that would cut off financial awards for lawsuits successfully filed against religious displays on government property.
The Public Expressions of Religion Act (PERA) (H.R. 2679) would deny the awarding of attorney’s fees or monetary damages to a party that wins an Establishment Clause court case — that is, one based on the so-called “separation of church and state.” Backers of the legislation note that local and state governments often give in to demands to remove religious displays for fear of incurring costly attorney’s fees. Opponents, on the other hand, consider the legislation a waste of time by Republicans who they say are anxious to shore up their conservative base before Election Day. They also note there is no companion Senate bill.
But Concerned Women for America, a major pro-family group in Washington, DC, is praising the 244 House members who voted in favor of PERA, calling the vote “a tremendous victory for Americans who value their constitutional and religious freedoms.” Eliminating monetary awards in Establishment Clause cases, says CWA, will free up citizens who are often reluctant to stand up for those freedoms because they are intimidated by the potential of “crippling judgments” for attorney’s fees.
“The House has shown leadership by advocating on behalf of their constituents’ rights,” says Lanier Swann, CWA’s director of government relations. “The Senate now needs to heed that duty.”
Senate approval, according to Swann, would give Americans the confidence they need to stand up to legal challenges brought by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, a group that often sues — or threatens to sue — communities and other entities for allegedly violating the Establishment Clause.
“Americans who wish to contest violations such as the refusal to allow the display of the Ten Commandments, the denial for the Boy Scouts of America to meet on public property, the omission of the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, or the ban on student prayer at football games will have one less hindrance to protecting their rights,” says Swann. She also believes passage of PERA will mean fewer attacks on religious freedom in the United States.
The president of the National Clergy Council agrees with Swann that the ACLU will be less inclined to pursue supposed religious rights violations if they know they will have to foot their own legal bill.
“The ACLU has for too long terrorized communities by menacing them with lawsuits over Nativity scenes and Ten Commandments displays, then profiting at the expense of taxpayers,” says the NCC’s Rev. Rob Schenck. He describes what he calls the “clever scam” often employed by the ACLU in such cases.
“The ACLU rolls out huge fundraising programs based on these suits, takes in millions of dollars to supposedly cover their costs, then uses the federal courts to double dip on reimbursements out of the public treasury,” says Schenck.
Several conservative groups, including both CWA and the National Clergy Council, are urging the Senate to act on the legislation, saying there is no valid reason to delay a vote.

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3 Responses to “House Approves Act Protecting Freedom of Religious Expression”

  1. NavyHelo says:

    For the life of me, I do not see the ACLU or similar groups as threatening my religious or other rights. I have been an active practicing Christian for 50+ years and see nothing in the PERA bill except an election-year attempt to energize a portion of the electorate at the expense of the few groups that actively litigate to protect the constitutional rights of all of us.

    The ACLU often represents groups that many of us do not like, but that is America, the right to express yourself as long as it does not harm others. I spent many years defending my country, in part to protect these rights. We need a counter-weight to a sometimes intrusive and bullying government; remember the witch-hunts by the FBI and others during the McCarthy era? Mere individuals cannot go against the weight of the government. Organizations like the ACLU need the ability to be reimbursed when they win cases.

    Moreover, religions flourish in countries where the State keeps out of the game. That is why bills to protect freedom of religion were even passed while we were still Colonies; they passed with the support of minority religions who feared for their rights if the government intruded into the religious sphere.

    Best Wishes to you all,
    /s/ life-long registered Republican

  2. Steve says:

    First off, thank you for serving in our military. It is greatly appreciated!!
    I think the argument here is that organizations such as the ACLU are using the tactic of court cost and lawyer fees to “terrorize”, for lack of a better word, cities and municipalities from even fighting an issue in court. That is not what the founding fathers wanted at all. Let an issue stand or fall on its own merits in front of a jury. Don’t use the threat of costly litigation to prevent it from going to court.
    Also, the ACLU, by threatening to take these free speech cases to court, are involving government, not keeping government out.
    As a side note, please read my article “What Does the U.S. Constitution Actually Say About Religion?” in regards to government’s role in religion.

  3. Beth says:

    As a Christian, I fail to see how the ACLU IS NOT threatening my religious rights. The agenda of the ACLU is completely clear to me: oppose Christianity at all costs, but make it look like you support all injustice no matter what the group. ACLU is not on the side of God at any time or in any instance.

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