Republicans fighting to unite church and state

Very interesting column by Duke University Law Professor, Erwin Chemerinsky, in the Washington Post today.  Apparently, the House has passed a bill that basically punishes attorneys who win cases that show the government has violated Americans' first amendment rights regarding separation of church and state.  Here's the deal:

A federal statute, 42 United States Code section 1988, provides that
attorneys are entitled to recover compensation for their fees if they
successfully represent a plaintiff asserting a violation of his or her
constitutional or civil rights. For example, a lawyer who successfully
sues on behalf of a victim of racial discrimination or police abuse is
entitled to recover attorney's fees from the defendant who acted
wrongfully. Any plaintiff who successfully sues to remedy a violation
of the Constitution or a federal civil rights statute is entitled to
have his or her attorney's fees paid….

Despite the effectiveness of this statute, conservatives in the
House of Representatives have now passed an insidious bill to try and
limit enforcement of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,
by denying attorneys fees to lawyers who successfully challenge
government actions as violating this key constitutional provision…The bill, if enacted, would treat
suits to enforce the Establishment Clause different from litigation to
enforce all of the other provisions of the Constitution and federal
civil rights statutes.  Such a bill could have only one motive: to protect unconstitutional government actions advancing religion. 
(emphasis mine)

When it comes to separation of church and state, I'm definitely with Thomas Jefferson.  Government was not created to enforce and encourage a particular set of religious views– at least not in this country, maybe in Iran. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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