(Washington, D.C.) Today the House of Representatives scheduled a vote on H.R. 2679, the “Public Expression of Religion Act.” The bill would eliminate damages and awards of attorneys’ fees for individuals or groups in successful cases brought to ensure their constitutional rights under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This bill would limit long-standing remedies available under civil rights law, 42 U.S.C. 1988.
The Interfaith Alliance President, the Reverend C. Welton Gaddy today issued the following statement:
“The Public Expression of Religion Act is an attack on the religious freedoms guaranteed to every American by the Constitution. If it passes, the House of Representatives will have closed the courthouse doors to ordinary Americans, including members of religious minorities, who seek the protection of their constitutional rights. This bill is another example of election-year tactics designed to manipulate religion for partisan political gain. We call on the Senate and President Bush to stop this bill and end the pandering to the Religious Right.
“We cannot allow Congress to open the door to picking and choosing which constitutional rights it wants to protect and which ones it wants to devalue. What is next? Can we imagine a day when citizens cannot go to court to protect their free speech rights?
“Religious expression is not threatened by the enforcement of the Establishment Clause, but is protected by it. The only way to ensure free exercise of all religious faiths is if ordinary citizens can raise challenges when governments try to impose one particular religious viewpoint on the people. Religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment includes both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. One without the other would render religious freedom a hollow phrase.”
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.