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Bill to Stop Anti-Religious Blackmail Introduced

Jun 22, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) introduced “The History and Tradition Protection Act of 2018.” The bill is intended to put an end to the use of the threat of attorney’s fees force government organization to abolish longstanding traditions and to re-write history to exclude religious faith. If the bill passes, advocacy groups like the ACLU would no longer be able to use the threat of monetary awards to force the removal of Ten Commandments displays, Nativity scenes, crosses from city seals, or the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

The First Amendment of the Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” activist judges have taken this as justification for eliminating religious expression from public life in the name of the “separation of church and state.” This allows extreme secularist groups to force government organizations to tear down monuments, stop people from praying, and alter official seals to ensure that all traces of religion are purged.

As a public-interest law firm Liberty Counsel has had a long experience of the way radical anti-religious organizations misuse the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause as a weapon in their efforts to suppress religious expression. Under current law, groups like this are able to threaten towns and school districts, not only with enormous expenses defending themselves, but also with the groups’ own legal fees. These fees can run to hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars and take a debilitating toll on the defendant.

With the threat of such unsustainable losses before them, it is hardly surprising that many such defendants simply capitulate rather than run the risk of defending themselves. This plan of coercion is a threat to our rights and to the proper function of our constitutional system. We are happy to see Congress addressing this vitally important issue and urge all members of Congress to support this effort to protect religious freedom. As Rep. Johnson, the original sponsor of the bill stated, “religious symbols and religious expression are deeply embedded in the history and tradition of our country”

Liberty Counsel has long supported legislation addressing this problem, including in 2006, when a similar law was passed by a majority of the House of Representatives and Mat Staver,

founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel testified in support before the Senate Judiciary committee.

Mr. Staver further stated that “The threat of attorney's fees and damages has been wielded like a bully club to beat local government officials into submission, even when the church-state claims are outrageous and frivolous. When the Supreme Court candidly admits that its Establishment Clause decisions are 'hopelessly confused,' how can we expect local government officials to navigate in the dark and then hit them with financial penalties?"

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