# News Congress restricts Establishment Clause of 1st amendment

1. Sep 30, 2006

### Rach3

What with yesterday's legalization of warrantless writetaps, torture, arbitrary detentions, and a suspension of habeas corpus, I completely overlooked yet another constitution-desecrating bill. Thanks to http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN06/wn092906.html [Broken] for pointing this out.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/29/AR2006092901055.html

Senate is yet to vote on it, apparently.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
2. Oct 1, 2006

### Manchot

That's complete and utter crap. I am so tired of these politicians eroding our Constitutional liberties, that I'm seriously considering becoming a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Say what you will about them, at least they seem to care about the Constitution, which is more than can be said by the politicians.

3. Oct 1, 2006

### Hurkyl

Staff Emeritus
It's amazing -- I could literally feel my reaction go from "Hrm, this is something I should learn more about" to "Blah, they're crying wolf again" when I read your post.

Last edited: Oct 1, 2006
4. Oct 1, 2006

### Manchot

In what sense is this crying wolf? The bill is most certainly real, and its effects are obvious. Do you deny the simple fact that people who cannot afford to pay for an attorney will be much less able to sue to stop violations of the First Amendment?

5. Oct 1, 2006

Under existing law, the Dover school board was punished and repaid ~$1M in legal fees (1). Under the proposed bill, a school district which decides to introduce 'Intelligent Design' (or creationism, forced prayer, abuse of non-Christians, anything else covered by the Establishment clause) could do so with relative impunity, knowing that prospective plaintiffs would have to foot the bill. Beyond the indirect circumvention of consitutional rights (which a majority of Americans don't care about), this may encourage school districts to start teaching I.D., and dare anyone to challenge them. So it does, Hurkyl, have important practical consequences. Of course, we've yet to see what legal challenges are mounted, if any. Last edited by a moderator: Oct 1, 2006 6. Oct 1, 2006 ### Hurkyl Staff Emeritus You miss the point entirely. When discussed seriously, it sounds like a serious issue. But when people whine about it, as you did in post #2, it makes it sound like the whiners are just whining again. I'm bringing this up so that you are aware of the harm you are doing when you make posts like that. 7. Oct 1, 2006 ### Ivan Seeking Staff Emeritus Some of us are [and have long been] so far beyond needing to be convinced of how dangerous these people are that the conversation takes on a completely different tone. 8. Oct 1, 2006 ### Astronuc Staff Emeritus I think post#2 is an expression of incredulity, and there is no harm in that. I could easily submit - :surprised , but then I am not surprised. Interesting comment at the conclusion of Chemerinsky's article - Those who would seek to undermine the liberties of others are well-financed. It should not be up to any individual to find the funds to protect himself or herself from coercion - that's why in most cases, coercion is illegal. It is up to the government to protect 'all' citizens, and not to selectively impose the will of a few wealthy and influential individuals or groups on the rest of the population. 9. Oct 1, 2006 ### Skyhunter In a political forum, one should expect somewhat partisan comments. Like; "the whiners are just whining again." Hurkyl you are doing exactly what you are accusing Manchot of. I believe it is called "projection." This is a serious issue, and one that was slipped in while the public's attention was diverted. Have to go now and write my Senators to make sure this doesn't get past the Senate. 10. Oct 1, 2006 ### Bystander "... provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees (I'll insert the phrase omitted from the news story in italics) from unsuccessful defendants." Attorneys, not plaintiffs; the point of the legislation is that plaintiffs who win pay their attorney fees from their awards rather than allowing attorneys to seek separate awards from the defendants. It does NOT prevent plaintiffs from filing a meritorious suit; it simply prevents attorneys from helping themselves to the taxpayers' money in the event a suit is found to be "meritorious." 11. Oct 1, 2006 ### edward It is obvious that a lot of the Bush administration legislation and actions are aimed at enhancing an already established power base for the neo con right. That being said, it is the method that has been used to do it that is alarming. Bit by bit and without fanfare new legislation and executive orders have been slowly, almost covertly, transferring more and more power to the executive branch. I am not ready to cry wolf, but with checks and blalances along with congressional oversight erroding, I now see the potential for a snowball effect that could very rapidly give all power to the executive branch. I am not saying that this is definitely going to happen. I am saying that it appears that there is a potential for a totalitarian state to come about quickly in this country. That potentail has been acquired through; secrecy, manipulation , and deception and it did not exist 6 years ago. 12. Oct 1, 2006 ### Astronuc Staff Emeritus More on H.R. 2679: Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005 Well that is his interpretation. Passed House (97% of Republicans supporting, 87% of Democrats opposing.) Introduced: May 26, 2005 Last Action: Sep 26, 2006: The title of the measure was amended. Agreed to without objection. Sponsor: Rep. John Hostettler [R-IN] http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-2679 I am waiting for these guys to make it illegal to track what they are doing in their attempts to violate the Constitution. It's time to vote to restore 'checks and balances' in the federal government and to defend the Constitution. 13. Oct 1, 2006 ### Hurkyl Staff Emeritus Thus the need to treat it seriously, rather than whine about it. You think I'm whining, and thus trivializing the importance of handling a serious issue seriously? 14. Oct 1, 2006 ### Skyhunter The reason the law was originally passed was to encourage "meritorious suits" because: Is not the cost of the bringing a successful suit part the damages sustained by a plaintiff? This change in the law makes it harder for the individual to seek remedy. Under this resolution, unless you are a well funded special interest group who can afford to put a legal team on retainer....fo'geta bout'it. 15. Oct 1, 2006 ### Bystander Sounds like "frivolous" lawsuits --- any lawyer wasting his, the public's, and courts' time with such deserves to be "stiffed." Very good! You've paraphrased my point quite nicely --- the attorneys are to be paid out of the awards granted plaintiffs. They are not "co-plaintiffs" to be granted lions' shares of awards (the$100k or so collected by lawyers in Chicago for winning a $5k award to a public school student granted when a school district required him to remove a poster of a B-52, or B-1, from his locker come to mind). Taxpayers are not going to be required to pay exorbitant legal fees to sue themselves. You've got a legitimate gripe, sue, and collect --- you're Madeline Murray O'hare, you can pay for your "15 minutes" of fame --- you want a writ of mandamus, you're SOL without several million dollars --- no one ever collects damages for governments' failures to perform as constituted and mandated by law; you're never going to force public schools to educate you, nor are you ever going to collect a dime for the public schools' failures to educate you. 16. Oct 1, 2006 ### Manchot For someone who talks big about "serious" discussion, you certainly seem to have no compunction against not discussing the matter seriously yourself. You have not yet addressed the topic of discussion in any way, and by calling my post a "whine" have also invoked ad hominem. Admittedly, my post was quite rant-like. The problem with the word "whine," however, is that it essentially carries no useful information. Anyone trying to discredit anyone complaining about some topic can attack that person by calling him a whiner, regardless of the content. It's any easy way to trivialize an issue. You're forgetting one major part of the equation: opportunity costs. Under this bill, any competent lawyer who takes a case protecting the First Amendment is essentially forfeiting the money that they could've gotten by accepting other clients. To use your example, if you assume that the$100k is actually the normal amount that the lawyers would charge their clients for the amount of work that the case required, taking on the case amounts to the law firm incurring a loss of nearly $100k. It's one thing trying to find a lawyer willing to do a case pro bono, but it's quite another asking that lawyer to absorb a major loss on your behalf. The end result is that no lawyers are going to want to touch your case. If you think about it, it's really quite clever what's going on here. The judicial branch of the government is supposed to protect the Constitution. Normally, people associate this responsibility with the judges. However, also implicit is the key role of lawyers: a judge cannot rule if no law suit is filed! By tying the hands of lawyers behind their backs, the legislators are performing and end-run around the courts. 17. Oct 2, 2006 ### Bystander The ABA doesn't want your case, you don't have a case. Stop handing them taxpayers' money gratis for suits over Xmas decorations on city and county properties, and they might get hungry enough to live up to the oaths they took when they joined the bar and actually look at real constitutional cases. 18. Oct 2, 2006 ### Manchot I already demonstrated that a law firm would have to be willing to accept a loss on your behalf, regardless of the merit of the case. Hence, someone in the ABA might indeed want your case, but simply cannot afford to do so. But this bill doesn't just cover the trivial lawsuits: it also covers the important ones! 19. Oct 2, 2006 ### Skyhunter Are you suggesting that if there is not a fat monetary settlement, the case is frivolous? I might be a bit of a traditional conservative as opposed to a neo-conservative, but I still believe that principles are worth upholding. If monetary value is the only recognized value, we truly have sunk to new lows in America. I am not familiar with the case, but it is anecdotal and not representative of the majority of civil rights cases. If the school district had not wrongly contested the case (I assume they were wrong since they lost) the legal fees would not have been so high. In reality the cost to tax-payers was more like$200,000, since the school district used tax money in it's defense.

It is now up to the citizens in that district to vote out the board members and elect a better school board.

Not sure what your point is here?

Non performance is different from infringement.

20. Oct 2, 2006

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
I agree frivolous lawsuits need to be discouraged.

On the other hand -
Public (government) officials need to stop using taxpayer money or public (government sponsored) institutions to promote religious ideology, which is the key issue.

If people want to express their religion or religious ideology, do so with one's own money and resources. This is a very simple proposition.

21. Oct 2, 2006

### K.J.Healey

What if a city official purchases said decorations using their own money and not that of the taxpayers. Do they then have the right to dsiplay these private items on public property? (It doesn't cost the public anything but lawn space)

As for my personal stance, though irrelavant, there should be no holiday decorations on public buildings. I know its anti-festive, and I love the holidays as much as everyone else, but i have a gut feeling that it just doesn't belong there given (what i believe to be) the type of government we have. The government shouldn't celebrate anything religious that is not historical.

22. Oct 2, 2006

### Bystander

Pro bono expectations and reporting aren't uniform in the U. S.; couldn't find any sort of "box score" for deductions claimed for tax purposes. Here're a couple links: http://legalethicsforum.typepad.com/blog/2006/06/don_burnett_on_.html
http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/dialogue/99summer/dial_99summerprobono.html [Broken]

Keep in mind that the population of lawyers in the country is around 3/4 million (hard to believe --- they seem to be thicker than flies in a barnyard), and the legal profession accounts for something like 10-15% of the GDP-GNP.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
23. Oct 2, 2006

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
I don't think it would be such a big deal now if the religious right hadn't been caught trying to change the science books so as to include creationism and exclude evolution, or trying to get prayer in school, . . . .

As for holiday decorations on public buildings or roadways/byways/sidewalks/promenades - ostensibly if it is secular enough , it should be fine. On the other hand, these days, someone is bound to object.

But I generally agree with Bystander about the adverse impact of law suits and large awards on the economy. In fact, I've receive several letters in the last 10-15 years indicating that I was in some class in some lawsuit. One recently involved Microsoft products. If the suit goes in favor of the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs get a few bucks or some credit or vouchers to future products or services. The lawyers on the other hand get \$millions, and I don't think the public is well served.

I agree with tort reform, but not as extreme as the conservatives or republicans have in mind.

Certainly if there is malpractive or negligence/malfeasance which causes injury or death, corporations must be held accountable (and possibly criminal charges brought against those who criminally negligent), and the victims must be compensated in a fair way.

Why not put the punitive damages in something like a community fund?

24. Oct 2, 2006

### Hurkyl

Staff Emeritus
Yes -- you're on the verge of understanding my point, I think. (alas, I thought it was rather clear in #3. *sigh*) Now just take this basic idea one step further -- what do you think will happen in the reader's mind when he sees someone whining about the issue? (or ranting, whatever gerund you would prefer there)

P.S. was there anything in post #2 to discredit?