Punishing the Victim: Constitutional Rights Edition

From today's Washington Post:

The House passed a bill yesterday that would bar judges from awarding legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups that sue municipalities for violating the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.

Though the bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering legal costs in any lawsuit based on the Establishment Clause, House Republicans said during a floor debate that it was particularly aimed at organizations that force the removal of Nativity scenes and Ten Commandments monuments from public property.

"Liberal groups . . . scour the country looking to sue cities and states with any kind of religious display, regardless of how popular these displays are," said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.). Because judges often require municipalities that lose such lawsuits to reimburse their opponents' legal fees, "citizens' precious monuments are being eroded with their own tax dollars," she added.

The bill, called the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act, passed 244 to 173 on a mostly party-line vote.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, said the measure is "election-year red meat for the Christian right, because they've been complaining they haven't gotten enough from this Congress."
So let me get this straight: You can still sue to have something removed because it violates the Constitution, but if you win (that is it's found that the municipality is violating your Constitutional Rights) you don't get any compensation because... why?

Actually, it's not even compensation. It's just requiring the law breaker to cover your legal fees. Let's apply this to another crime. Large Corporation X has a patent on a machine that makes widgets. Small business starts making widgets with a machine that is pretty similar to the one patented by Large Corporation X. LCX wins the suit and... the small business stops but LCX still has to pay its own legal fees. That doesn't sound like something Republicans would endorse.

Granted, this bill is unlikely to pass the Senate and it was never meant to pass, just to placate the hungry Christianist masses, but still. Republicans wrote a law (and passed it) saying that if it's found that your Constitutional Rights are violated, you pay the fees.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. John N. Hostettler of Indiana. He claimed that ACLU, etc. were "profiteering" and trying "to remove every vestige of our religious heritage from public places."

No, John, they're not. They're trying to defend the Constitution, something you swore to do and failed.

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