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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: February 27, 2013 10:45 AM
From: Representative Tim Krieger
To: All House members
Subject: Cosponsorship Request - Guaranteeing Transparency in Litigation Affecting Religious Liberties
In recent months, an out-of-state foundation has filed suit on behalf of anonymous plaintiffs against both the New Kensington-Arnold School District in Westmoreland County and the Connellsville Area School District in Fayette County over displays of the Ten Commandments posted outside schools in each district. In both cases, the monuments have been fixtures outside of the schools without any complaints or controversy for many years. In fact, the monument outside one of the schools was a gift from the Fraternal Order of the Eagles back in 1957. Yet when the monuments were brought to the attention of the foundation, the foundation not only filed federal lawsuits seeking to have the monuments removed, but did so without even revealing the names of the individuals bringing the lawsuits.

Religious expression in public places has been prevalent in the nation and in the Commonwealth for generations, from the founding of the Commonwealth by William Penn onward to modern times. Indeed, religious symbols are prominently displayed in public places such as in the chambers of both the Pennsylvania Senate and the House or Representatives, as well as through a mural of Moses receiving the Law adorning the chamber of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

But just as the First Amendment protects religious liberties, it also prevents the government from closing the courtroom doors in matters of important public interest, such as where the cherished tradition of religious expression in public life is contested by those who wish to erase religion from public property. Indeed, the public right of access to government proceedings, including court proceedings, is inherent in our democratic form of government. Allowing the public to access the courts and judicial records casts a bright light upon the judicial process and helps to prevent injustice, incompetence, perjury and fraud.

I invite you to join me in sponsoring a bill that will guarantee that in any lawsuit to suppress, remove or otherwise inhibit the display or use of religious symbols in public locations, the party bringing the claim will not be allowed to proceed anonymously unless that party can show he or she would suffer serious physical harm otherwise.

Introduced as HB922