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War Vets Call on Americans to Urge Congress to Preclude Attacks on Veterans Memorials

Contact: Ramona Joyce, 202-263-2982, 202-445-1161 cell; Joe March, 317-630-1253, 317-748-1926 cell, both of The American Legion; This text and a high-resolution photo of Cmdr. Morin can be downloaded at http://www.legion.org


INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 12 /Christian Newswire/ -- Following markup of a bill by the House Judiciary Committee last week that would stop courts from awarding taxpayer dollars in attorney's fees in litigation against religious symbols on veterans memorials, the leader of the nation's largest wartime veterans organization today called on all Americans to urge their congressman and senators to pass it and a companion measure in the Senate.


"With only 18 legislative days left in this Congress before the election recess, I ask every American that cherishes the religious heritage given to us by our Founding Fathers to take a minute today to call their Congressman and both Senators," said American Legion National Commander Paul A. Morin. "Legal attacks against veterans memorials that display religious symbols must not be rewarded by judges reaching into taxpayer pockets to enlarge the coffers of organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to encourage more lawsuits against our traditions and memorials."


HR 2679, the Public Expression of Religion Act introduced by Rep. John Hostettler and its companion piece in the Senate introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback as S. 3696, the "Veterans' Memorials, Boy Scouts, Public Seals, and Other Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act of 2006," (PERA) would amend U.S. statutes to eliminate the chilling effect on the constitutionally protected expression of religion by state and local officials that results from the threat that potential litigants may seek damages and attorney's fees.


The American Legion has fought for passage of this reform legislation since the ACLU sued the Mojave Desert WWI Veterans Memorial and obtained a federal judge's order to destroy the solitary cross at that veterans' memorial. The ACLU then sought, and received, $63,000 from that same judge as an attorney fee award -- although neither the ACLU nor its mascot plaintiff -- had any actual attorney fees. The $63,000 went directly into ACLU coffers as profit.


Most Americans remain unaware the ACLU and other organizations have been reaping millions of dollars in taxpayer-paid attorney's fees from lawsuits against veterans memorials, the Boy Scouts, the public display of the Ten Commandments and other symbols of America's religious heritage. In recent testimony to the Senate, Rees Lloyd, former ACLU attorney and Department of California District 21 Commander, provided these examples of ACLU awards of taxpayer money: Approximately $950,000 in attorney fees was awarded to the ACLU in a settlement with the City of San Diego in its lawsuit to drive the Boy Scouts out of Balboa Park. In the Judge Roy Moore Ten Commandments case, the ACLU received $500,000. In a recent "Intelligent Design" case against a school board, the ACLU received $2 million in attorney fees by order of a judge -- although the law firm that represented the ACLU informed the court and public that it had acted pro bono and waived any attorney fees; these fees were pure profit to the ACLU.


"If the ACLU feels it has to bring lawsuits that most Americans abhor, it should at least have the decency not to assess these to the taxpayers to make a profit," Morin said. "We are calling on our representatives in the House and Senate to sponsor and support PERA, bring it to the floor for a vote, or explain why they will not. I ask my fellow Americans to join us in this effort."


Senators and members of Congress may be sent an e-mail or obtain a telephone contact number through The American Legion Legislative Action Center: http://capwiz.com/legion/home.


The American Legion publication In the Footsteps of the Founders -- A Guide to Defending American Values provides detailed information and is available free on request to pr@legion.org.