Oppose the “Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005”

Media 06.22.06

Recipient: Senate Judiciary Committee

Dear Judiciary Committee Member,

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we urge you to oppose the “Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005” (H.R. 2679). H.R. 2679 would bar attorney’s fees to parties who prevail in cases brought under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It would also make injunctive relief the only remedy available in such cases.

H.R. 2679 is unprecedented. It would, for the first time, single out one area of constitutional protections under the Bill of Rights and prevent its full enforcement. It would greatly undermine the ability of citizens to challenge Establishment Clause violations, as legal fees often total tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it difficult to impossible for most citizens to pursue their rights without the possibility of recovering attorney’s fees. In addition, because a prevailing party would not even be able to recoup court costs, it would prevent most attorneys from even taking cases on a pro bono basis.

By deterring attorneys from taking Establishment Clause cases, H.R. 2679 would leave many parties whose rights have been violated without legal representation. As such, it would effectively insulate serious constitutional violations from judicial review. It would become far easier for government officials to engage in illegal religious coercion of public school students or in blatant discrimination against particular religions.

If the rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution are to be meaningful, every American must have full and equal access to the federal courts to enforce them. The ability to recover attorney’s fees in successful cases has long been an essential component of this enforcement, as Congress has recognized in the past. As such, we strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 2679.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions, please contact Rob Randhava, LCCR Counsel, at 202-466-6058 or [email protected].


Wade Henderson
Executive Director

Nancy Zirkin
Deputy Director