Hoyer: Republican Bill Affecting First Amendment Cases Would Set Dangerous Precedent

For Immediate Release:

September 26, 2006

Contact:Stacey Farnen Bernards
(202) 225 - 3130

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following concerning H.R. 2679, the Public Expression of Religion Act, which was considered on the House Floor today:

         “This legislation – the so-called Public Expression of Religion Act – is politically cynical and would set a very dangerous precedent.  Quite simply, this bill would bar the award of attorney fees to the prevailing parties asserting their fundamental constitutional rights in cases brought under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

         “This is, indeed, a change of heart for a Republican Party that has tried in vain for years to impose a “loser pays” rule on attorney fees in tort cases.  In fact, with this bill, the House Majority lays bare the outcome determinative agenda that guides the Republican Party when it comes to issues that involve our legal system and judiciary.  That is, the Majority seeks to enact legal procedural advantages for those with whom it agrees.

         “If this bill became law, it would single out one area of constitutional protections under the bill of rights and prevent its full enforcement.  Without question, that would set a dangerous precedent.

         “The substance of the Constitution is meaningless unless all Americans have a fair and equal opportunity to go to court when their constitutional rights are curtailed by the state.  This bill would discourage Americans of limited means from defending their rights.

         “Taken to its logical conclusion, this bill would make the U.S. Constitution the tool for those who can afford to vindicate their rights in a court of law.  As such, it is a dangerous bill that runs counter to more than 200 years of American jurisprudence, and thus should be defeated.”

 

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