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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Public Experssions of Religion Protection Act of 2006

August 6, 2009
Floor Statement
Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Mr. Speaker, I oppose this legislation because it prevents people from getting attorney's fees or economic damages even if a court agrees with them that the Federal Government has violated their constitutional right to religious freedom or not to be forced to recognize one religion over another. In other words, Congress is telling the courts that they do not know how to do their jobs.

Article III of the Constitution states that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Why are we trying to do the Court's job by deciding that these Establishment Clause claims deserve only injunctive or declaratory relief?

This bill reaches right into the Civil Rights Act, for the first time in history, I might add, singles out people who have Establishment Clause claims and tells them that they cannot recover any economic damages. How can this be so, Mr. Speaker? How can this be so, when the 11th Circuit in Glassroth v. Moore, a case decided in 2003, stated that: For Establishment Clause claims based on noneconomic harm, the plaintiffs must identify a personal injury suffered by them as a consequence of the alleged constitutional error.

The court found injury in Glassroth because the claimants had altered their conduct and incurred expenses in order to minimize contact with a Ten Commandments monument erected in the rotunda of Alabama's State judicial building.

With this bill, this committee attempts to overturn Federal judicial opinions, and that is simply not our role. Congress established enforcement remedies under section 1983 more than 100 years ago.