People who agree to be plaintiffs in church-state lawsuits know they are taking a risk, and that's why they sometimes file lawsuits anonymously. But if a Missouri legislator has his way, that will no longer be possible in the Show Me State.
Rep. Hardy Billington (R-Dist. 152) is sponsoring House Bill 728, which would require that adult plaintiffs use their real names in civil actions concerning separation of church and state. The bill, Americans United says, is clearly designed to discourage people from filing such lawsuits by making them targets for harassment and threats.
Despite its extreme nature, the measure is getting some traction: It has passed two House of Representatives Committees and moved to the full House as this issue of Church & State was in production. Don Hinkle, director of public policy for the Missouri Baptist Convention, and Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network, testified in favor of it.
Americans United is speaking out against the bill and has written two letters to Missouri lawmakers urging them to oppose it.
In a Feb. 26 letter to Rep. David Gregory (R-Dist. 096), chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Bruce DeGroot (R-Dist. 101), vice chair, AU State Policy Counsel Nik Nartowicz explained that some people petition courts to proceed in these cases anonymously precisely because they fear becoming targets.
"Plaintiffs who file cases to protect the separation of church and state do so to uphold both the U.S. and the Missouri Constitutions,"...