WWW Opinion Times

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Congressman Wants to Stop ACLU Profit from First Amendment Cases

Congressman John Hostettler, R-IN, wants to remove the financial incentive organizations like the ACLU have to attack religious expression in the public square.
CitizenLink--Representative John Hostettler, R-Ind., has teamed with the American Legion to prevent the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others like them, from strong arming defendants.

The Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005 (PERA) would prohibit attorneys' fees from being collected in cases against the establishment of religion clause. . . .

The legislation comes at a time when the ACLU is challenging the mention of "Jesus" in the Indiana legislature, the cross on the California state seal and prayer at graduation ceremonies across America. Regularly such cases never make it to court because of concern over the cost of attorney fees.
Kneejerk reactions to this sort of proposal will clearly point out that the "rights of victims to due process" will be infringed if they cannot obtain a competent attorney through fees which come through court judgments. But to the contrary, the ACLU with its 400,000 members, for example, brings in $44 million in donations to its organization.

If this law passes, it could also bring to the forefront the most onerous aspect of the current status of First Amendment law. It's what I call the "Malicious Ignorance Clause"; too much emphasis on "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion" and complete denial of the words "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

This is not the first time Cong. Hostettler has introduced this bill. In 2003, it died in committee. The difference this time: he has the support of 2.7 million members of the American Legion.