January 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback has failed in a behind-the-scenes effort to railroad a measure through the Senate that hampers church-state lawsuits.

Brownback (R-Kan.), a staunch Religious Right proponent, attempted to attach the so-called Public Expression of Religion Act (PERA) to the Veterans Administration appropriations bill in mid-November, not long after the Republican Party lost both chambers of Congress on Election Day.

The bill, which Americans United for Separation of Church and State strongly opposed, would make it more difficult for citizens to challenge church-state violations. It would bar the recovery of reasonable costs and attorney fees in successful lawsuits against the government.

Echoing the rhetoric of Religious Right activists, Brownback told Agape Press, a fundamentalist Christian online publication, “The ACLU and others use these legal fees as blackmail against a community putting up a Nativity scene or having a Ten Commandments expression.”

Brownback’s effort failed after Democratic leaders blocked the move through procedural tactics, according to Focus on the Family’s Citizenlink.       

Americans United Legislative Affairs Director Aaron Schuham said the Veterans Administration appropriations bill passed the Senate without PERA.

PERA was approved by the House of Representatives in September, but its failure to move in the Senate means the legislation is almost certainly dead.