Atheists Upset by Bill Against Anonymity in Religious Symbol Lawsuits

A national atheist organization is concerned about a bill introduced by a Pennsylvania state representative that would eliminate the use of pseudonyms in most lawsuits challenging the display of religious symbols on public property.

Rep. Timothy Krieger is the prime sponsor of Pennsylvania's House Bill 922, which would grant anonymity only to those parties that can provide evidence that they would "suffer serious physical harm" if their true names were used in such cases.

In a memorandum posted to the state's website late last month, Krieger points to two specific cases in which school districts within the state were sued by FFRF for having the Ten Commandments posted on monuments outside of school buildings. In both cases FFRF filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs whose names were not revealed.

"These legislators need to put their religious views aside and understand that protecting children from harm is a paramount interest of the state," said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in a statement concerning HB 922. She noted that some people who have filed similar suits in the past have been threatened by others as a result.

She also criticized legislators for trying to pass a bill that would not affect the types of cases they seek to regulate. Both of the Ten Commandments cases Krieger cited in his memo were filed in federal court.

"One would hope that elected legislators would have a basic understanding of government and know that they lack the ability to regulate the First Amendment and the federal judiciary," she added.

Krieger told The Christian Post on Friday that he is an attorney and fully understands the bill would not affect federal cases, though he wants to affect state courts.

Decisions in cases concerning the public display of religious symbols "need to be made openly in public debate," he said, and those who want to oppose such symbols should have the courage to proceed under the risk of scrutiny.

"We want a discussion," said Krieger. "These folks don't want a discussion by virtue of the fact that they want to come in secret and do these things. This stuff ought to be determined democratically, and this is anti-democratic."

He also said it is "more than ironic" that FFRF will argue against the Ten Commandments being posted at public schools when there is a mural of Moses receiving God's Law on the wall of the chamber of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

"So I would argue they have a basic misunderstanding of our history, of our traditions," said Krieger.

HB 922 was referred to the state's House Committee on Judiciary on March 11, and is sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans.

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