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Bill Takes On ACLU Awards

September 27, 2006|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill Tuesday 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 aimed at organizations that force the removal of Nativity scenes and Ten Commandments displays.

"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.).

The bill, called the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act, passed 244 to 173. Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, said the bill was "election-year red meat for the Christian right because they've been complaining they haven't gotten enough from this Congress."

Fredrickson said the Senate was unlikely to pass the bill.

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