Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2007

GOP club targets ACLU

July 19, 2007

— Members of the Leavenworth County Repub-lican Women are taking their fight against what they call an attack on public symbols of American history and heritage to a national level.

The club is working with U.S Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on legislation that would no longer allow organizations they feel are reaping profits through lawsuits against religious symbols to use a law passed in 1976 intended to benefit the poor.

Donna Gillett, legislation chairwomen of the Leavenworth County chapter, said many groups were misusing the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Act of 1976 that was meant to help poor people who could not afford attorneys when their civil rights had been abused.

On the top of their list of offenders is the American Civil Liberties Union, which Gillett said works under the pretense of helping the "little guy" when really it has used the legal system to extort money from the government. In turn, Gillett said, the ACLU has caused damage to such areas of life as marriage, veterans' memorials and city seals.

"The ACLU has decimated what is dear to our American hearts," she said.

The Veterans' Memorials, Boy Scouts, Public Seals, And Other Public Expressions of Religion Act or "PERA" was introduced during the 109th Senate by Brownback but failed to make it out of the Judiciary Committee. The bill has again been introduced into the 110th Senate.

Gillett said PERA would "correct" the original 1976 act and make it so the ACLU and other like-minded groups "with the help of activist judges" would no longer be able to take money from taxpayers for their own agendas.

Kay Johnson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said her organization has not misused any laws and that there were certain safeguards in the law that prevented such practice.

She said under the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Act of 1976, attorney fees are awarded only when government has violated a citizen's constitutional rights. The key word she said that concerns the ACLU is "government."

For Andrea Adkins, president of the Leavenworth County Republican Women, the issue is more about the fiscal aspect rather than religion.

Adkins said she was concerned the ACLU and other organizations have found a "well-funded loophole" in the system and that it needs to be corrected.

Johnson noted several groups from both sides of the liberal/conservative divide have received fees from the 1976 law.

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