The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

House Approves Act Protecting Freedom of Religious Expression

Posted by thelamp on September 28, 2006

By Jody Brown
September 27, 2006

(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.

Source:  www.afa.net

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