Press Release from American Atheists
End to Legal Fees in First
NOTE: Pagan litigants have been
successful in several First Amendment cases and have had their legal fees paid
by the offending public entity.
Write your congressional representative about H.R. 2679, the "Public Expression
of Religion Act."
Tuan MacCarrill/MacParthalon, Forever the Celtic Story!"
Lowell McFarland <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[AMERICAN] LEGION ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR BILL ENDING LEGAL FEE
AWARDS FOR FIRST AMENDMENT LITIGATION CASES
Hostettler Defends "Public Expression of Religion
Act" To Stop "Chilling Effect" On Religious Expression
The nation's largest veterans' organization has announced a campaign to support
a controversial bill that would stop courts from awarding legal fees in First
Amendment establishment clause cases.
Meeting recently in Washington, DC for its annual convention, the American
Legion said that it would launch a new effort on behalf of H.R. 2679, the "Public Expression of
Religion Act." The proposed statute, introduced in
March, 2005 by Rep. James Hostettler (R-IN), would amend Section 42 of the
United States Code. The introduction states:
"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 fee."
Under Section 2 of PERA, the bill provides:
"(b) The remedies with respect to a claim under
this section where the deprivation consists of a violation of prohibition in the
Constitution against the establishment of religion shall be limited to
"(b) Attorneys Fees - Section 722(b) of the Revised Statutes of the United
States (42 USC 1988) is amended by adding at the end of the following: 'However,
no fees shall be awarded under this subsection with respect to a claim described
in subsection (b) of section
nineteen hundred and seventy nine."
The legislation would amend the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Act to stop courts from awarding legal fees or damages to any
individual or group which successfully brings suit under the Establishment of
Religion clause of the First Amendment. Supporters
of the measure argue that organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union
have reaped enormous compensation from such actions, costs which are ultimately
paid by taxpayers. They add that the mere threat of lawsuits is having a
"stifling effect" on religious practices, specifically the public display of the
Ten Commandments and other sectarian symbols on
Attempts to outlaw or discourage litigation over church-state separation issues
are occasionally introduced in Congress and state legislatures under the pretext
of protecting religious freedom and ending "excessive" attorney fees. A
proposal by Rep. James DeMint of South Carolina disallowed "attorney fees in any
action claiming that a public school or its agent violates the constitutional
prohibition against the establishment of religion by permitting, facilitating,
or accommodating a student's religious expression."
In Maryland, a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 966)
contained a provision deleting compensation for attorneys pursuing First
Amendment cases. Neither measure was enacted into law.
The American Legion became interested in the issue as result of litigation over
a six-foot Christian cross erected in 1934 as a veteran's monument at the Mohave
National Preserve. In 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit
arguing that the cross violated the First Amendment as a "religious fixture" on
public property. A federal judge eventually ordered the monument dismantled,
and attorneys received $63,000 in compensatory fees.
At its 2004 gathering, the Legion approved a resolution to keep the memorial,
warning: "There is nothing in the law to prevent groups like the ACLU from
filing Establishment Clause lawsuits against ... sacred grounds and then
receiving taxpayer-paid attorney fees."
In a statement announcing its "National Awareness Campaign to Stop Abuse of the
Taxpayer," Legion commander Tom Bock said that the original intent of the U.S.
Code awarding legal fees was "intended to help the poor obtain legal counsel in
claims of real, tangible violations of civil right." He added that the ruling
in the Mohave cross case was "a very dangerous precedent," and called for "a
ground swell of public demand on lawmakers to pass PERA in the 109th Congress."
To launch the campaign, the Legion has issued a printed and pdf file document,
"In the Footsteps of the Founders -- A Guide to Defending American Values" which
has already been sent to all members of the U.S. Congress. The conservative
worldnetdaily.com web site claimed "many legislators expressed surprise at the
size of the attorney fees sought and gained by the ACLU and indicated support
for the bill."
The guide stated: "There simply is no reasonable basis to support the
profiteering in attorney fee awards ordered by judges in these cases. The very
threat of such fees has made elected bodies, large and small, surrender to the
ACLU's demands to secularly cleanse the public square."
Commander Bock cited other cases along the Mohave cross dispute, including legal
actions involving the Boy Scouts of America. The American Legion press release
noted: "Bock believes that stopping the flow of millions of dollars of taxpayer
money to the ACLU and other organizations should remove or seriously decrease
the incentive for them to pursue self-enriching suits against American values."
Attorney Eddie Tabash who has been involved with state-church separation issues
said that the "Public Expression of Religion Act" was "patently
unconstitutional," and was simply another strategy to discourage litigation over
government practices that violated the
Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, added that the Hostettler bill
"is not for the benefit of the taxpayer, but for government and religious
leaders who insist on eroding the wall of separation between church and state."
"They know, as do we, that most attorneys are simply
unable to work on long-term, complex litigation if they don't receive some
compensatory fee," Johnson said. "We're not
talking about donating a few free hours 'to the cause.' These cases require an enormous amount of time and effort."
Johnson said that governments are often quite willing to
squander taxpayer funds in order to defend their unconstitutional practices.
"Whether it is school prayer or defending a religious monument in the public
square, state and local governments are frequently very short-sighted and
belligerent when caught doing something that violates the First Amendment,"
Johnson said. "If the Legion and Representative Hostettler really wish to save
all of us some money, they should work to stop unconstitutional practices that
AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists,
a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair that defends the civil
rights of nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and
addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.
You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch provided that appropriate
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Please do not post complete editions of this newsletter indiscriminately to news
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Edited by Conrad F. Goeringer (email@example.com).
The Internet Representative for American Atheists is Larry Mundinger (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The President of American Atheists is Ellen Johnson (email@example.com)
Hansen, North Carolina Pagan Unity Campaign
The Pagan Unity Campaign is a grass roots political action movement uniting
Pagans of diverse traditions in promoting religious liberty. Our mission is to organize and equip Pagans of all traditions
to protect the Constitutional right to Freedom of Religion for ALL People
of ALL faiths through assertive but peaceful means.
PUC is not attempting to unify Pagans under a religious umbrella. It is not
necessary for Pagans to sacrifice our diversity in order to work for the
shared purpose of protecting Freedom of Religion for ALL People of ALL
The Pagan Unity Campaign has many projects each year:
The "I Am Project" is for the purpose of alerting
government officials of the staggering number of Pagan supporters in their
districts. Each summer solstice (June 21st), elected officials are
sent postcards and letters calling their attention to the size of the Pagan
The "Pagan Laws Project" is being organized to
compile a searchable database of current and pending legislation that directly
affect Pagans, whether positively or adversely.
It will additionally include information about elected officials currently in
office and candidates seeking election and their positions on the issues that
are important to people within the Pagan community.
Once online, The Pagan Laws Project Data Base will be a resource that
anyone concerned about their rights or who are simply curious about their
freedoms in a particular area will be able to access and utilize in legal
matters as well as in their everyday lives.
These tasks major undertakings, requiring the skills and resources of
Pagans of many traditions around the nation. Fortunately the Pagan
population grows by leaps and bounds each year.
The Pagan population of The United States continues to grow rapidly.
Unfortunately due to fear of prejudice and persecution of our minority faith
many Pagans do not come out and acknowledge their religious beliefs . It is
difficult to determine the number of practitioners. Estimates in 2003 range
from 100,000 to several million in the U.S. alone.
Storm Bear Williams, The founder of The Pagan Unity Campaign (PUC), Ginger
Strivelli, the national president for PUC, and many other PUC members throughout
the US continue to strive to increase the voter registration and participation and
to decrease the misinformation about Paganism in general.
Our grand nation is made up of people of many religious convictions
practicing Catholic, Protestant, [Catholics consider it a slur to distinguish
Catholicism from Christianity in such lists.] Jewish, Islamic, Hindu,
Buddhist, and Pagan faiths, as well as many others. Thanks to our
founding fathers that we here in the United States can freely worship and or
practice our multiple faiths.
"The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of
--Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779.
freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human
--Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819.
Dettmer V. Landon (617 E Supp.529) the District Court of Virginia pursuant to
rule 52a of the Rules of Civil procedure. Reaffirmed in 1986 in the Federal
Appeals Court, Fourth Circuit, Butzner J. (592 F. 2d. 934) Henceforth,
Witchcraft and Witches are protected under the United States Constitution