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Rep. Johnson introduces bill to combat lawsuits against religious symbols

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Congressman Mike Johnson gives his victory speech at his watch party Tuesday night at Silver Star Smokehouse in Bossier City. The incumbent retained his 4th Congressional District seat to represent Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Randy Brown/Press-Tribune)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday for Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association to determine whether the cross-shaped design on the Bladensburg Peace Cross World War I Memorial violates the Constitution.

To combat continual, frivolous lawsuits regarding religious symbols and expression, U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04) introduced H.R. 1269, the History and Tradition Protection Act. The bill focuses specifically on lawsuits, like the one heard yesterday, that pertain to the Establishment Clause.

“For decades now, secularist organizations have engaged in an aggressive campaign of fear, intimidation and misinformation in their quest to rid the public square of all religious symbols, history and expression. (Wednesday), one of those attempts came before the Supreme Court. It is a shame that the Establishment Clause, intended to serve as a shield for people of faith, has been twisted and perverted into a powerful weapon used against them,” Johnson said in a statement. “Fortunately, we are fighting this in Congress. My legislation will help restore the First Amendment protection of our cherished religious freedom and traditions.”

Johnson’s bill removes the financial incentives for activist groups to challenge religious symbols and expression by removing the potential for an award of monetary damages and attorney fees in Establishment Clause cases where a plaintiff complains of (1) any monument, memorial, statue, or other figure containing religious words, imagery or symbolism, (2) a public building containing religious words, imagery or symbolism, (3) the presence of religious words, imagery or symbolism in official seals and flags, or (4) religious expression in the context of the proceedings of any deliberative body.

Johnson also introduced the History and Tradition Protection Act in the 115th Congress and obtained 41 cosponsors.