The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today entitled "By Process of Intimidation" about an ACLU and American's United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) joint lawsuit against a school in West Virginia that had a portrait of Jesus hanging outside of the principal's office for the last 37 years. As the article points out, the attack on the portrait of Jesus was a bit one-sided since apparently there are also "a two-foot statue and a portrait of Buddha that remain displayed in two classrooms in the school" which were not part of the lawsuit and therefore apparently unobjectionable. But I suspect any type of investigation of the suits filed by organizations like these would reveal that the vast majority of their suits seek to remove Christian symbols with only a few lawsuits seeking to remove other religious symbols.
But what I found most interesting was the discussion of how the ACLU and AUSCS threatened the school with a charge of excessive attorney fees that the school would have to pay if they didn't surrender its position. According to the article:
In federal lawsuits against state officials that allege violations of constitutional rights, defendants are required to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees if they lose the suit. In this case, Americans United explicitly warned the Bridgeport school board that, if it lost the case, it would be paying over a substantial amount of money to its own lawyers and those of the ACLU. Thus there is a strong—and unjustly one-sided—financial incentive on the part of many public institutions to cave in to the demands of groups such as the ACLU and Americans United and settle such suits.
I wrote about this problem on September 28 in a blog entry entitled "No More Attorney Fees For Establishment Clause Lawsuits" where I said:
The ACLU is an organization that works to prevent violations of people's civil rights. The ACLU is well-funded and is capable of pursuing lawsuits in a way that is outside the financial ability of the ordinary citizen. The ACLU also has a track record of pursuing litigation that fits into its more liberal-minded view of the Establishment Clause -- a view that is not shared by many people in the population. When the ACLU enters into the scene, the situation changes. Instead of the city or state being the better funded of the two parties to the litigation, suddenly the plaintiff is the better funded -- especially against smaller towns and townships which don't have huge budgets set aside for fighting such lawsuits. The result is that many cities or towns have to settle with the ACLU rather than fight the litigation because the governing body of the city or town knows that if it loses (regardless of how remote the chances) it will be on the hook for thousands of dollars in attorney fees that the ACLU attorneys were able to bill for prosecuting the litigation.
What is the size of the school district in West Virginia? Well, according to the WSJ article, the lawsuit concerned the town of Bridgeport, W.Va., which has a total population of 7,300. Which do you suppose is better-backed financially?
Personally, I think this is another example of the ACLU using strongarm tactics to force its agenda on smaller communities. This tactic of the ACLU is little better than a gang tactic to get its way using the fear of financial ruin. The ACLU ought to be ashamed -- but, of course, it is way beyond shame.