A plan that would cut off the pipeline of taxpayer money that now flows into American Civil Liberties Union coffers has been advanced by the House Judiciary Committee.
The Public Expression of Religion Act, introduced by Indiana Congressman John Hostettler, now will move to the full House for a vote, he said in his announcement this week.
“This is a big victory for Americans who care about our rich religious heritage in this country,” he said. “There is a lot of excitement about this bill.”
It has been vigorously supported by the American Legion, where Commander Rees Lloyd described it as “a long overdue victory for justice, freedom, democracy, and the First Amendment.”
“The American Legion has fought for reform of the attorney fee provisions of federal law which the ACLU has exploited to reap millions of dollars in taxpayer-paid attorney fees in Establishment Clause cases,” Lloyd’s statement said.
He said the ACLU has used the threat of the fees as ‘a club’ to bludgeon local elected bodies into surrendering to the ACLU’s “secular cleansing demands.”
The plan came about after the ACLU, “the Taliban of American liberal secularism,” according to Lloyd, sued to tear down a cross on a rock outcrop erected by veterans as a memorial to World War I veterans in 1934 in the remote Mojave Desert.
Officials noted someone would have to drive 11 miles off the highway “to be offended” by the cross.
There had been no complaints against the memorial in 60 years, until the ACLU sued to have it removed, and then asked for and got $63,000.
“The American Legion,” said former American Legion National Commander Tom Bock, “is in full support” of the plan. He said it would take away the authority of judges to award attorney fees to the ACLU in lawsuits under the Establishment Clause.
The law, approved in 1976, originally was to help individual citizens bring lawsuits against state officials who had deprived them of their constitutional rights. However, Hostettler believes it has been abused by groups like the ACLU, who claim any public official who expresses religious beliefs or displays a memorial with religious imagery, like the crosses at Arlington National Cemetery, is promoting the “establishment of religion.”
For example, in 2001 Iowa county officials removed a Ten Commandments monument from a courthouse lawn rather than face the attorney’s fees threatened. And in 2004, Los Angeles removed a tiny cross from the county seal when it was threatened with those fees.
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback has similar legislation pending in the Senate.
In an endorsement of the plan, the American Legion quoted Thomas Jefferson:
“The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in our federal judiciary; an irresponsible body, working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing in its noiseless step like a thief … until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one.”
One such case that currently is grinding its way through the court system involves the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in California.
The ACLU has been fighting to remove that for 17 years, even though 76 percent of the people in San Diego where it is located want it to stay.
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