Quick Review of First Amendment on Religious Liberties
End to Legal Fees in
First Amendment Cases?
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>
Press Release from American
[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
"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 injunctive relief."
"(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
"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 promote religion."
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
You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch provided that
appropriate credit is given to both AANEWS and American Atheists.
Please do not post complete editions of this newsletter indiscriminately
to news groups, boards or other outlets.
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)
What is Theocracy?
"Theocracy" means government by God. When the Taliban was in power, Afghanistan was a
theocracy. Christian Reconstructionists seek to establish a
Christian theocracy, and have been working through the Republican Party
for twenty years.
Here's how D. James Kennedy defines their mission:
"reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice
regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our
neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our
sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific
endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human
These people are patient and powerful and have
quietly gained control of school and library boards. They've organized so
much pressure that there are very few hospitals that dare to provide
abortions, and have been nibbling away at a woman's right to choose so
that many women have to cross state lines or travel far to obtain an
abortion, even in cases of rape. Further, they are now working to
restrict access to birth control.
They are currently campaigning for state laws and a
Constitutional Amendment to remove even civil equivalents of marriage for
same sex couples.
They have found ways to get governmental funds for
proselytization, and used Bush's executive orders to establish youth
indoctrination and Christian peer-pressure programs in tax-funded high
schools. Non-Christian youth have become their prime targets for bullying.
If you agree that it's important for Pagans to learn
about the threat Christian Reconstructionism poses to us, and how we can
rally around historic American values to stop them, here's how you can
> educate yourself by visiting www.theocracywatch.org,
Watch the video "Life and Liberty for All Who Believe"
It's at www.theocracywatch.org/audio-video.htm (scroll down).
> Have meetings &
play some educational videos that will explain everything to
them for you.
The "Theocracywatch videos are free online but you can
buy them for $ 7 each.
> Create flyers to give out at meetings &/or play the videos at Pagan
It's vital that we organize a
campaign for Pagans to get educated & take this issue more seriously. Our
community needs to know what is at stake - no pun intended. Stand-
up now, or face a possible new, modern type of Inquisition in the near
future. No joke.
Register to learn more about our Pagan Politics Tribe.
The Power of an Ally
By Khrysso Heart LeFey
I just found this link to a web site that's oriented to campus BGLQT agencies,
but it has some important crossover principles that could be very useful to
As Christa repeatedly says, "It's going to be done by hands without number," and
sometimes I think that the power of allies is the only power that really
The "Power of an Ally" packet you can click to from the following URL is a
PDF with 46 pages, few of which are useful for reference, but if you have
Acrobat Reader and space on your disk, I think it's worth a look for the
purposes of sparking some creative coalition-building.
Voluntary Association/Economic Democracy: Art
Tells the Story of Working People
Releases appear on a white background
|ACLU on Religious Liberty-
Protecting First Amendment Rights
"ACLU: Now More Than
Help The ACLU Turn Back Assaults on Our Freedoms!
See what they're doing for us and help
them do it: www.aclu.org
In the 107th Congress. ACLU Launches Online Clearinghouse
on Government-Funded Religion. www.archive.aclu.org/issues/religion/hmrf.html
Action to Defend the Constitution!
From The ACLU
Learn more about the ACLU by visiting http://www.ACLU.org
For more information on other issues and the latest news,
Help Strengthen the ACLU's Voice in Congress...
Click below to become a card carrying Member or donate today!
Subscribe to the ACLU Action Network Updates, click
United for the Separation of Church
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in
Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans
about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious
The Legislative Department of Americans
United for the Separation of Church and State offers detailed reports
on church-state activities in Congress and state legislatures
nationwide. You can monitor legislative action by issue, representative or
Get the Latest Church-State News from Congress and State
Amnesty International USA
Interfaith Human Rights Network
<http://www.amnestusa.org/interfaith>http://www.amnestusa.org/interfaith (312) 427-2060.
FYI: Amnesty International USA is directed by William Schultz, former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, whose support of Paganism within the UUA was so crucial in CUUPS' early years.
To view a June '02 speech by AI's Director, Wm. Schulz, on Human Rights NGOs, interfaith work, and another response to Terrorism, contact Dr. Christa Landon . We will arrange a showing to any interested.
The Interfaith Alliance
|Interfaith Coalition Launches 'Faithful Democracy' – Voting is Act of Faith
"Faithful Democracy" is a coalition of religious organizations and denominations that have joined together to encourage people of faith to proactively engage in the democratic process through voter registration and education efforts. Members include: American Friends Service Committee, Bread for the World, Episcopal Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Fellowship of the Reconciliation, the Interfaith Alliance, National Council of Churches of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Church of Christ, United Methodists and others. (Press Release, 03/30/04)
For more information on legislation The Interfaith Alliance has followed in Congress, please visit http://www.interfaithalliance.org/
You can sign up for Interfaith Action Center at:
Full text of the resolution:
To support our efforts at The Interfaith Alliance to speak on behalf of people of faith and good will, please visit: http://www.interfaithalliance.org/ssl/secure.html
Sign up for Interfaith Action Center at:
| People for the American WayFoundation
People For the American Way (PFAW) is a national non-profit
organization dedicated to defending civil rights and promoting the democratic values of freedom, respect for diversity and tolerance of
People For the American Way believes that every child deserves a quality education and that no child should be left behind. As a
leader in the fight against school vouchers, People For the American Way has been hard at work combating voucher schemes in Congress and
in state legislatures. Our Foundation fights against vouchers in the courts. Our Field, Public Policy and Research Departments offer a
variety of resources to concerned activists.
People For the American Way depends on the support of individuals like
you. Join us today and know that you are helping to keep alive the true American spirit: tolerance, free speech, protection
for minorities, equal opportunity, and freedom for all religious faiths without government intrusion.
Learn more about the Radical Right
and what you can do to help fight
their extremist agenda at PFAW's website: http://www.pfaw.org
Right Wing Watch Online archives: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/right/rwwo/
Subscribe to Education Activist Online:
firstname.lastname@example.org with no subject and the message:
To become a member of People For the American Way,
please call 1-800-326-7329 or go to: https://secure.pfaw.org/join/
Donations to People For the American Way are not tax-deductible as
charitable contributions or as business expenses under IRC Sec. 162(e).
| Voluntary Association/Economic Democracy:
Art Tells the Story of Working People
part of Labor's story is about telling Labor's story. When we are
effective in getting our message out we gain support and we win battles.
We win campaigns, strikes, and even elections. When we let the other side
tell our story we're in for big trouble.
The following website link, www.northlandposter.com , leads to some of labor's best tools when it
comes to getting our message out. Over the last 26 years we've managed to
create a large body of union art as well as coining or popularizing some
of the popular slogans in the labor movement (slogans like "Unions,: the
Folks Who Brought You the Weekend", "Friends Don't Let Friends Cross
Picket Lines", "Danger: Educated Union Member", the famous "Organize"
fish, and so forth). We have hundreds of buttons, posters, T-shirts and
other items that are meant to help win campaigns, inspire our
constituencies, and educate about our history. Of course our materials
union printed. We provide organizing tools and experience to organizers
in every industry and every corner of the United States (and some places
beyond). We keep in touch with what's happening in the workplace and
create new materials constantly that address the hot issues facing working
We're not a slick public relations firm but a small feisty part of the
union movement with organizing experience under our belts that means we
understand the challenges that face organizers, staffers, and rank and
filers in today's environment. If you're not familiar with what we do,
we'd love to have you visit our site and check us out!
An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
Northland Poster Collective creates and distributes art for social
| "True Majority" Explains the Federal Budget
True Majority is endorsed by Campus Greens, Rainforest Action Network, Utne
Reader, Womens Action for New Directions, Global Exchange, Rock the
Vote, National Council of La Raza, Service Employees International
Union, National Head Start Assoc., Sojourners, Peace Action, The
Interfaith Alliance, Physicians for Social Responsibility, United for a
Fair Economy, and others.
Check out the video at:
This is a national organization of Wiccan, Pagan and civil liberties
attorneys, paralegals and law students, co-founded by Phyllis Curott and
The RLLN provides legal counseling and support in cases of religious
discrimination, educational information on First Amendment rights, and a
highly visible media profile to rebut negative stereotypes and respond
to instances of religious bias and discrimination."
For more information,
Kirsten Rostedt, Esq., Director email@example.com
for Religious Freedom Cases
If you are a victim of religious discrimination or
of a hate crime because of your religion, you are not alone. The
Pagan institutions below operate with extremely limited support, and
are staffed only by volunteers, so the aid they can provide is
limited to information, tracking, and referral. When more Pagans are
willing to support and expand the Pagan institutions to
protect our religious liberties, more help will be available, and
institutional discrimination itself may decline.
SEE the new Legal Help Page
Also see: "Activists"
in the Weaving the WWWeb section
of this e-zine.