AN ACT

 

1Amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the
2Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for parties and
3records in legal actions concerning public interest.

4The General Assembly finds and declares as follows:

5(1) The First Amendment to the Constitution of the
6United States provides that "Congress shall make no law
7respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
8free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or
9of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
10assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of
11grievances." Sections 3 and 7 of Article I of the
12Constitution of Pennsylvania also provide similar rights.

13(2) These constitutional provisions guarantee the right
14of the people to religious practice without government
15interference, as well as to the right to unfettered self-
16expression.

17(3) Religious expression in public places has been 

1prevalent in this nation and this Commonwealth for 
2generations, from the founding of this Commonwealth by 
3William Penn onward to modern times. Indeed, religious 
4symbols are prominently displayed in public places such as in 
5the chambers of both the Pennsylvania Senate and the House of 
6Representatives, as well as through a mural of Moses 
7receiving the Law adorning the chamber of the Pennsylvania 
8Supreme Court.

9(4) The freedom of individual self-expression extends to 
10prohibiting government from limiting the stock of information 
11from which members of the public may draw. Free speech 
12carries with it the freedom to listen, receive information 
13and monitor the government in the process of its work.

14(5) These guarantees prevent the government from closing
15the courtroom doors in matters of important public interest,
16such as where the cherished tradition of religious expression
17in public life is contested by those who wish to erase
18religion from public property. Indeed, the public right of
19access to government proceedings, including court
20proceedings, is inherent in our democratic form of
21government. Allowing the public to access the courts and
22judicial records casts a bright light upon the judicial
23process and helps to prevent injustice, incompetence, perjury
24and fraud.

25The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
26hereby enacts as follows:

27Section 1. Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated
28Statutes is amended by adding a section to read:

29§ 5112. Parties and records in legal actions concerning public
30interest.

1Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary,
2in a suit to suppress, remove or otherwise inhibit the display
3or use of religious symbols in public locations, including
4public schools, the court shall not permit a party to
5participate by pseudonym and shall not seal the records in the
6case absent a showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that a
7party would otherwise suffer serious physical harm.

8Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.

 

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