Heretic on the Hill: Tell Speaker Johnson You Oppose His Anti-Establishment Clause Bill

First a few positive words about House Speaker Mike Johnson: After months of delaying and considering every other alternative, he took the only remaining option on defense funding for Ukraine, which was to do the right thing. He let the House vote on it. This despite threats from anti-Ukraine, pro-Russia House members to call a vote on whether he can keep his job as Speaker. Johnson is learning that as Speaker you can’t make everyone happy so sometimes you might as well do what’s right, even if it means letting Democrats help pass a bill.

On the other hand,

Johnson has a bill, the History and Tradition Protection Act, that would limit the amount of damages a plaintiff can win in a successful suit concerning monuments, public buildings, or flags that contain religious words, images or symbolism. He knows something about this from his time at the Alliance Defending Freedom, defending those monuments, buildings, and flags in court. It is unusual for an attorney to do something to limit attorneys’ fees, but there it is.

Specifically, the legislation abolishes the award of monetary damages and attorneys’ fees in “Establishment Clause cases where a plaintiff complains of any monument, memorial, statue, …public building, or other figure containing religious words, imagery or symbolism; or the presence of religious words, imagery or symbolism in official seals and flags; or religious expression in the context of the proceedings of any deliberative body.” Such as a prayer before a city council meeting. 

So if a public building like a courthouse has the Ten Commandments inscribed on the wall, and someone successfully sues to have that removed on the grounds that it violates the Establishment Clause’s prohibition on establishing any state religion, they cannot receive monetary damages and they pay the attorneys fees themselves.


The Johnson bill incentivizes government officials to include “religious words, images, or symbolism” in government buildings or on government land because there would be no legal consequences of any significance. We do not need a law that provides this incentive for people in positions of power to impose their religious beliefs on the public. There need to be legal consequences and financial deterrents in place for those who are found to have violated the Establishment Clause.

You can use this Action Alert to tell your representatives that you oppose the Johnson bill.


The Secular Coalition, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the American Humanist Association are hosting the inaugural Congressional Reason Reception on May 1st on Capitol Hill. The event will include Congressmen Jamie Raskin, Jared Huffman, and Mark Pocan presenting three awards, one to the biggest violator of church-state separation and two that people should actually want to win.

The featured speaker is Kate Cohen, author of We of Little Faith: Why I Stopped Pretending to Believe (and Maybe You Should Too). It’s going to be entertaining, and you can register to watch on Zoom here. The program should last from 6:30 to 7-ish but we just learned that Congressman Raskin has to appear right at the beginning of the reception, around 6pm. We hope to Zoom him then and any other members of Congress who drop by.


Spreading Happiness

Inventore curae facere aliquam convallis possimus quo laboriosam ullamco harum iaculis ipsa, consequuntur interdum aut officiis pulvinar doloribus auctor optio. Omnis diam natoque magnis, risus quam auctor porro ratione natus, eu arcu optio.


Sign up to receive updates and action alerts!

Scroll to Top