The price of trying to break the law

When you lose a court case like the one in Cranston, you get to pay the opposing side’s court costs.  Well that bill just got handed to the school.

The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which won a lawsuit against the Cranston School District for a religious display at Cranston High School West, filed a request for repayment of attorney’s fees in the amount of $173,000 in U.S. District Court today.

And it should be noted that the RIACLU was being very generous.

In a release, Steve Brown, executive director of the RIACLU, said the amount includes major discounts for hours of work by volunteer attorneys Lynette Labinger and Thomas Bender. He also said the amount is mindful of the school district’s budget woes in recent years.

“In terms of its complexity, the ACLU noted that the school district initially raised ten affirmative defenses when it filed its answer to the lawsuit. The amount sought by the ACLU attorneys pales in comparison to the attorneys’ fees that lawyers working with the Becket Fund, the national group that assisted the school district in defending the case, obtained in a church-state lawsuit two years ago. In that case from Colorado, dealing with a church zoning dispute, attorneys working with the Becket Fund were awarded over $1.25 million in attorneys’ fees for their work handling the case in the district court.”

Not good enough for the banner Committee at Cranston West.  They called the price tag exorbitant.  Let no good deed go unpunished.  It turns out lawsuits cost a lot of money.  That’s why it’s a very stupid idea to keep fighting lawsuits you’re destined to lose.  Breaking the law, it turns out, is not cheap.

Will the banner committee have learned its lesson?  That will be decided on Feb. 16.  One thing is for sure though – the godly in Cranston sure as shit haven’t learned it.

Based on previous meetings, the turnout will likely be large, with supporters of Jessica Ahlquist, the ACLU’s plaintifff one one side and pro-banner supporters who have been wearing signs that proclaim “APPEAL or be voted out” on the other.

I swear zombies would starve in Cranston.

I don’t envy the banner committee.  Cranston is apparently largely populated with people who have such a small esteem for their children’s education they would threaten the jobs of the committee members if they refuse to burn substantial amounts of education dollars.  And how many of those insisting on fighting a losing battle will pony up some dough to mitigate the damage the school suffers in pursuing their wishes?  My money’s on “not a single one.”

For those wondering why we atheists get so pissed off about religion, you need look no further than situations like these where faith has doubtlessly been responsible for empowering destructively foolish behavior.

There is also a poll waiting to be devoured.  When I put it up on twitter last night it was…

Do you think the amount the ACLU requested for repayment of attorney fees is reasonable?

Yes:  56%
No:   44%

Destroy it.

The only way it could have been more fair is if the RIACLU hadn’t relied on subtlety with the mob, but had instead included a note explaining that Cranston got off extremely light this time – next time they’ll get to pay the whole bill.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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