Missouri Legislator Wants to Ban Anonymous Church/State Lawsuits

Missouri Legislator Wants to Ban Anonymous Church/State Lawsuits April 10, 2019

Missouri State Rep. Hardy Billington has submitted a bill to prohibit the use of pseudonyms to hide the identity of plaintiffs in church/state lawsuits who fear threats and actual violence from their local communities if their name is made public. I doubt this would survive a legal challenge, or at least I hope it wouldn’t.

Rep. Hardy Billington’s measure would require the real name of the party in interest, except a minor, to be named in civil actions involving the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article I, Section 5 or 7 of the Missouri Constitution.

“House Bill 728 would guarantee that no individual or organization will be able to use state courts as a weapon to attack the right of Missouri citizens to display religious symbols in public spaces while hiding behind a cloak of secrecy,” Billington, pictured, told the Missouri Times…

The problem, according to the freshman lawmaker, groups, on behalf of an anonymous individual, are regularly suing or threatening to sue to remove religious symbols, like crosses, from public spaces or holiday displays.

Requiring the real name of the interested party is beneficial to all Missourians, according to Billington. He added that the public has a legitimate interest in knowing all the facts and events surround court proceedings and since the defendants are identified and the plaintiffs should be identified, as well.

No, it would not benefit all Missourians. It certainly wouldn’t benefit those who file such suits and routinely face harassment, intimidation, death threats and often serious violence. Ask Joann Bell, whose home was firebombed in Oklahoma after she filed a lawsuit challenging a clearly unconstitutional program in the local public schools (she won the suit, of course). Ask dozens and dozens of other plaintiffs who have had their pets killed or had to go into hiding because of the rampant death threats from local “Christians” who disagreed with them. Make no mistake about it, this is nothing more than an attempt to make such dangers more common to intimidate people into not filing suits Billington doesn’t like.

Legally, it makes no sense. It’s not as if the constitutional questions change if the plaintiff is allowed to file under a pseudonym. Nor does the outcome change. The only purpose for this is to prevent people from filing church/state lawsuits by intimidating them into silence.

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