One Law for You, One Law for Me

ONE LAW FOR YOU, ONE LAW FOR ME….Federal law says that if you sue the government for violating your constitutional rights, you’re entitled to collect attorney’s fees if you win. The rationale behind this is obvious: it’s in everyone’s best interests to deter governmental wrongdoing, but few people can afford the attorney’s fees necessary to mount a challenge when their rights have been violated. Paying attorney’s fees for meritorious cases helps keep the government honest, while witholding them in losing cases discourages lawyers from bringing frivolous suits.

But it turns out that House Republicans think that some civil right are more worth protecting than others. Under a new bill that just passed the House, if you sue the government for violating your religious freedom you’ll be out of luck whether you turn out to be right or not. Erwin Chemerinsky:

Such a bill could have only one motive: to protect unconstitutional government actions advancing religion. The religious right, which has been trying for years to use government to advance their religious views, wants to reduce the likelihood that their efforts will be declared unconstitutional. Since they cannot change the law of the Establishment Clause by statute, they have turned their attention to trying to prevent its enforcement by eliminating the possibility for recovery of attorneys’ fees.

This has become standard practice for conservative Republicans: if they can’t change the law, they simply stop enforcing it. We’ve seen this in the IRS, we’ve seen it in the FDA, and I was talking to a guy the other night who said he’s seen the same thing in the EPA, where he works. Republicans can’t (or don’t dare) repeal the laws that protect us, so instead they just slash funding for enforcement. It works out the same in the end.