In the ACLU’s suit against the Giles County, VA schools over a Ten Commandments display, the identity of the plaintiffs was withheld and stated only as John Doe, a common practice in such cases. But Liberty Counsel is demanding that the names of the students and their parents be known.
In court papers filed Tuesday, the School Board objected to a request by the student and one of his or her parents seeking anonymity in the emotionally charged case.
“The people have a right to know who is using their courts,” lawyers for Liberty Counsel, which represents the School Board, wrote in the brief.
“Consequently, the use of fictitious names is disfavored and should not be granted automatically.”
But there is a reason for such anonymity. I don’t know of a single significant church/state case that has not resulted in harassment, bullying, vandalism and even death threats and violence against the plaintiffs. Not one. And this goes all the way back to even before Ellery Schempp, whose family home was vandalized in the late 50s. Tammy Kitzmiller received death threats aimed at her daughter in the Dover case. Joann Bell had her own obituary sent to her in the mail, then someone tried to make it real by firebombing her family’s home.
The request cites comments and emails mostly directed at the two legal groups.
“Keep up the good work, you’ll have a special place in hell,” one email says. Another suggests that non-Christians leave the county “before things get ugly over there.”
Taken as a whole, the comments show a communitywide animus from which the plaintiffs should be protected, the ACLU contends.
Such comments are hearsay, Liberty Counsel countered, and do not show that the plaintiffs themselves have been threatened with physical or mental harm.
“Plaintiffs are asking this court to ignore its judicial duty and to permit them to proceed anonymously based upon nothing more than speculation and inadmissible hearsay,” the School Board maintained in court papers.
Absolute nonsense. There is more than enough history here to compel the court to approve this request. I think Liberty Counsel knows that the kind of harassment and violence a plaintiff always faces in these situations is a good way of getting them to drop the case. There is no legal reason why it’s necessary to reveal their identities; their legal arguments are going to be exactly the same whether they are anonymous or not. This is all about intimidating the plaintiffs so they drop the suit.
It’s the Tonya Harding strategy — if you can’t beat them in court, injure them on the way to the courthouse.