Tag Archives: liberty

Vote on bill to stifle religious dissent expected today

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Back in March, I posted about an effort, supported by the American Legion, to pass a law that would stifle religious liberty by prohibiting the winner of a consitiutional violation case from collecting legal fees from the loser – as is done in most civil cases in the US. (See: American Legion backs law in attempt to stifle religious dissent )

H.R. 2679 — the “Public Expression of Religion Act” — would amend a portion of the current U.S. Code and eliminate attorney fees in legal cases where government violated the constitutional separation of church and state. A vote is expected in the US House on Tuesday 9/26.

Why is this bill a threat to civil liberties?

The use of legal fees paid by the loser of a suit is one way that an average citizen can have their day in court. Few lawyers will work for free and if they have to depend on the limited funds of a plantiff then they amount of legal work on a case will be the same amount. The government (federal, state, and local) has lawyers on retainer for such suits. An average citizen couldn’t possibly compete with tax supported legal help provided to the government in the suit.

Legal fees is also a way of settling suits before a trial. A government or an agency may see the potential payment of legal fees as more of a cost than settling the suit in favor of the plantiff. If the bill becomes law then a government or an agency would lack inducement to settle and we arrive back at the first point mentioned above.

H.R. 2679 also is unfair in that it only applies to church and state cases – thereby giving special protection to violations committed against minority religions and the non-religious. It is an end-run around the wall of separation.

The supporters of this bill know that they cannot legally stop citizens from challenges government abuses when it comes to the separation of church and state,” said Johnson. “So they’re trying to achieve that objective by indirect means, like making it prohibitively expensive for private groups and individuals to bear the expense of taking officials to court when they violate the constitution. They’re attempting to do by quasi-legal means what they know they can’t accomplish otherwise.

American Atheists President Ellen Johnson

Why would any law abiding American object to paying attorneys who successfully attack unlawful behavior by public officials. The lawyers are not paid if the case is dismissed or otherwise lost. How can the pending bill protect the public when it rewards scofflaws in public places and punishes those lawyers who dare to prove the violations to American juries?

There is no hint in this legislation that lawyers not be paid if they are successful in legal actions that expose public officials who endorse or practice racial discrimination, sexual harassment, or unequal treatment of citizens because of age or disabilities. Why then deny attorney fees to those lawyers who succeed in exposing officials who want to make their religious views everyone’s religious views? Do those supporting PERA think the First Amendment is wrong?

Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director American Atheists, Inc.

Those of you who support real religious liberty should let your elected officials know that H.R. 2679 is a bad bill and a bad precedent. To find out how to contact them use the following link:

Contact Your Elected Representatives

War on Christians: same old same old

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I posted earlier about not having a transcript or article about the recent “The War on Christians and Values Voters in 2006” hosted by the religious right front group Vision America. I had an idea of what would be talked about – same old same old tired arguments – but I wanted to read about the conference and maybe some details about it.

Thanks to the blog Writing Right I was led to an article on the People for the American Way site that gave me what I needed.

The article is called The Liberal “War” On Christians and Values Voters : Hysterical Females, Perverted Sodomites, and the Collapse of “Christian America” and here are some of the tidbits of interest to me:

Tom Crouse, pastor of the Holland Congregational Church in Massachusetts and radio show host, testified about his personal tale of persecution, recounting a “Mr. Heterosexual 2006 – A Celebration of God’s Design” event he organized in response to a “Mr. Gay 2005” competition in San Diego. Crouse sued the city of Worcester for making him pay more than $6,000 for police protection for the event, saying it violated his constitutional right to free speech. While refreshingly admitting that it was somewhat disingenuous for panelists to be talking of “persecution” in light of actual religious persecution around the world, Crouse nonetheless stated that Jesus warned Christians that they would be persecuted for their beliefs and thus, such persecution was actually a blessing. In fact, Crouse suggested, if Christians are not being persecuted, they ought to ask themselves if they are living their faith properly. Crouse’s “Mr. Heterosexual” event was designed, he said, to proclaim the truth that God doesn’t make homosexuals and that everyone is born heterosexual, but some choose to pretend otherwise. Crouse called on the church to stop worrying about appearing tolerant and start proclaiming the truth, saying that Jesus was the most intolerant person in the world.

and

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, president of Caucus for America – an organization that is dedicated to “unmasking the true intentions and motivations of a cynical, elitist corps working to transform America into a variant of European secularism and socialism.” Spero took up Feder’s theme and went a step farther, stating that they are really in a battle against “hedonists” who want to destroy America and turn it into a socialist state. Spero said that words and phrases such as “tolerance” and “multiculturalism” are really just code words for unmitigated hedonism. Spero responded to a question from an audience member wondering why “liberal elitists” have sided with the Palestinians against Israel and with Islam against America, by saying they have done so because they – liberal elitists – hate America and because they constantly are looking for ways to make themselves appear smarter and more compassionate. He closed with a warning that Islam and “fundamental secularists” were working together to destroy America’s moral underpinnings.

and

Texas Senator John Cornyn was then introduced by Phillip Jauregui, the director of Vision America’s Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration and the former attorney for Justice Roy Moore. Cornyn basically delivered a stump speech about judicial activism and the importance of getting the “right kind” of judges on the bench. After saying he was pleased by Justice Alito’s confirmation in light of Alito’s views on religious “freedom,” Cornyn commenced an attack on the court system and various decisions about the separation of church and state such as prayer in public schools, the Ten Commandments, etc., for constitutionally “transforming” a policy of state “neutrality” toward religion into a policy of “hostility” toward religion.

and

Rod Parsley, pastor of the Columbus, Ohio World Harvest megachurch, is one of the rising stars of the religious right and got the conference’s second day off to an energizing start. According to Parsley, who wholeheartedly endorsed the “War on Christians” conference, America is in the midst of “a revolution, a reformation and a revival” – and this conference was part of a “moral revolution,” which he compared to the Crusades. The nation is at a “point of crisis,” he said, in which “our culture is in chaos” and the “moral foundations … are quickly crumbling around us with no sign of a cure.” To the “smoldering ash heap of moral decline that we find ourselves in today,” he maintained, God “has called us to war” against a “spiritual invasion” – although who the invaders are is less than clear, though “secular humanists,” the “liberal left,” public schools, and “America’s tortured and angry homosexual population” could all be likely candidates.

The Liberal “War” On Christians and Values Voters : Hysterical Females, Perverted Sodomites, and the Collapse of “Christian America”

As the PFAW article noted:

Those who attended and spoke at the “War on Christians” conference are committed to portraying every court decision that they don’t like, every piece of legislation they support that doesn’t get enacted, and every policy that does not conform to their religious and social agenda as part of some overarching secularist plot to destroy Christianity. If there is any doubt that the drafters of the “Values’ Voters Contract with Congress” truly want to portray themselves as engaged in “war,” one only has to read the declaration’s conclusion where they pledge their “lives” and their “fortunes” to “support of the beliefs and actions we have herein declared.”

It all seemed so familar to me. Why?

Oh, yes. The same “war” metaphors and shrill screeching that the country is falling apart has been expressed by the religious right since the Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973, the Christian Voice was born in 1978, and the Moral Majority appeared in 1979 and so on.

“The strategy against the American Radical Left should be the same as General Douglas MacArthur employed against the Japanese in the Pacific… Bypass their strongholds, then surround them, isolate them, bombard them, then blast the individuals out of their power bunkers with hand-to-hand combat. The battle for Iwo Jima was not pleasant, but our troops won it. The battle to regain the soul of America won’t be pleasant either, but we will win it.”

Pat Robertson, The Most Dangerous Man in America? by Rob Boston

and…

“[T]he even more diabolical ‘wall of separation’ that has led to increasing secularization, godlessness, immorality, and corruption in our country.”

“God has called us to engage the enemy in this culture war. That is our challenge today.”

“How much more forcefully can I say it? The time has come, and it is long overdue, when Christians and conservatives and all men and women who believe in the birthright of freedom must rise up and reclaim America for Jesus Christ.”

Rev. D. James Kennedy, Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search of Its Soul, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1997)

The Religious Right controls the Republican party and the GOP controls both houses of Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and most of the Appellate courts, along with a majority of state and local governments.

11 states passed amendments banning Gay marriage.

There is NOT a war on Christians in the US. There is a struggle between freedom and Christian extremism and unless secular people and moderate Republicans wake up we will all be outlawed.

There is no difference in my mind between the Religious Right in this country and the Taliban in Afghanistan. They are both dangerous to American values.