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Legion Calls on Congress to Pass Bill Ending 'Judicial Blackmail'

Contact: Ramona Joyce, 202-263-2982, Cell 202-445-1161; Joe March, 317- 630-1253, Cell 317-748-1926

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 25 /Christian Newswire/ -- With a floor vote scheduled Tuesday in the House of Representatives for the Veterans’ Memorials, Boy Scouts, Public Seals, and Other Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act of 2006, the leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization strongly urged lawmakers to pass the measure.

“This legislation, if enacted, would amend the United States Revised Statutes to eliminate the threat of judicial blackmail on constitutionally protected expression of religion by state and local officials,” American Legion National Commander Paul A. Morin wrote in a letter to Members of Congress today. “This chilling effect results from the financial threat to cities and municipalities by potential litigants seeking civil damages and attorney fees under Title 42 United States Code (USC) 1988.”

 H.R. 2679, and its companion bill in the U.S. Senate, S.3696, would eliminate the authority of judges to award attorney fees in litigation against religious symbols at veterans’ memorials, the Boy Scouts, public seals, and open displays of America’s religious heritage.

“The real threat of such judge-ordered fees is that they have terrorized local elected officials into surrendering to the plaintiff’s demands to remove religious symbols, such as crosses from veterans’ memorials, city logos, police badges, and any public environment where the rich religious heritage of the nation flourishes,” Morin said.

“It is time to put an end to this outrageous exploitation of a law designed to encourage individual plaintiffs injured by racial discrimination to seek judicial relief,” he added. “Attorney-fees awards, although discretionary with a trial judge, are usually approved for the prevailing party; however, some have twisted this civil rights legislation to achieve results The American Legion believes Congress never intended.

“The American Legion fully supports this legislation because it fairly addresses the constitutionally protected expression of religion and rectifies the excessive awards of attorney fees paid from public funds,” Morin said. “On behalf of the 2.7 million veterans of The American Legion, I strongly urge all Members of Congress to pass PERA legislation.”

This text and a high-resolution photo of Cmdr. Morin can be downloaded at http://www.legion.org