Stop Stop the ACLU

Hat-tip to Echidne: anti-liberty organization/blog Stop the ACLU is trumpeting a new bill that underlines the point I made on Monday about enforcing the Constitution. The ACLU explains a little more:

The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed its dismay as the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 2679, the “Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005” (PERA). The bill would bar the recovery of attorneys’ fees to those who win lawsuits asserting their fundamental constitutional and civil rights in cases brought under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“If PERA were to pass, Congress would isolate and discourage enforcement of a specific piece of our Bill of Rights,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “PERA advocates are seriously misguided in their claim of defending religious freedom. This legislation would in fact weaken the very freedom they claim to be protecting. We are deeply disappointed in the committee’s decision to allow PERA to come to a vote.”

Stop the ACLU has a list of talking points in support of the bill, and the ACLU’s rhetoric in opposing it is weak, so let me give a few pointers.

1. Civil liberties must apply to all citizens, not all citizens who can afford to pay for court protection. Just like the US was not a free state until slavery was eliminated, even though the majority of its residents were free, so will it have no real civil liberties if those too poor to avoid a lawyer can’t have them.

2. If I sued someone in a civil court and won, he’d have to pay my legal expenses. Lawsuits against the state shouldn’t be any different; to privilege the government from having to pay implies that violations of freedom of speech and religion are lesser crimes than torts.

3. Historically, civil liberties litigation often relied on outside sources of funding, including governmental payouts. Black victims of racial oppression in the 1950s couldn’t pay legal expenses out of pocket.

4. If taxpayers have the right not to pay for lawsuits they disagree with the results of, then criminals have the right not to pay fines or serve jail terms they disagree with. When a court decides the government violated someone’s freedom, it’s incumbent on the government to comply with the court’s sentence. If you do the crime, you serve the time; similarly, if citizens collectively elect government officials who violate the Constitution, the citizens need to at least pay the litigants’ legal expenses.


7 Responses to Stop Stop the ACLU

  1. Stentor says:

    If you don’t like your tax dollars going to compensate people whose rights have been violated, it seems like the obvious solution would be to stop violating people’s rights.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Yeah, but that would violate the Dominionists’ God-given right to tell people how to think and behave.

  3. Alon in the U.S., it is generally NOT the case that a prevailing plaintiff recovers legal fees in civil litigation. Lawsuits against the government on civil rights issues are one major exception to this so-called “American Rule” on attorney’s fees. There are a few rare exceptions for suits in consumer protection matters, certain labor disputes such as unpaid wage collection cases, etc. But if I run over your foot and you sue me, I don’t pay your lawyer if you win. Frankly, this fact is probably the strongest justification for allowing contingent fees to attorneys, which most legal systems that provide an attorney’s fee recovery to a prevailing party do not allow (EG the EU, Canada from what I have heard, etc.)

  4. Mad Bluebird says:

    More whinning fromt eh ATHEISTS,COMMUNISTS and LAWYERS,UNDERGROUND(ACLU) still trying to wreck this nation with its band of lawyers and other riff raff

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