Because religious freedom is one of the most basic principles protected by our Constitution religion flourishes here in America.

In fact, more than 85 percent of Americans identify with a religion (according to a 2002 Pew Research Council Poll), and more than half of Americans of an extraordinarily wide range of faiths regularly attend services. America is home to more than 1,300 religions and more than 360,000 churches, synagogues and mosques.

The ACLU has defended the right of evangelical preachers to pass out literature on the Strip in Las Vegas and to preach on Washington state sidewalks. We have defended a Nebraskan church facing eviction by the city of Lincoln. We have defended the right of those who want to perform baptisms in a public park. We have defended the right to include religious yearbook messages on behalf of a Christian high school valedictorian. We have defended the rights of students to distribute candy canes with religious messages.

We have defended religious freedom innumerable times, but when a city or a county puts a religious emblem on its seal, it is violating this country's principles of religious freedom. And, it sends a disquieting message that the government favors one religion.

The founders of this country knew what they were doing. They knew that religion would thrive if they made sure government wasn't allowed to interfere by establishing or promoting one single state religion especially since this country has been a haven for many who have come here to escape governments with one state-sponsored religion.

Many groups and individuals fight daily to protect these important civil rights and civil liberties issues. The American Legion's call to change the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1988 is a retaliatory measure based on misinformation aimed at hobbling a number of non-profit organizations, including the ACLU, that protect all people's civil rights and civil liberties. Attorney fees go to the prevailing party and without funding, the rights of all Americans would be severely curtailed.

We encourage and stand up for freedom of expression including healthy debate, but the Constitution is clear. It protects individuals from any and all attempts by the majority to curtail the liberties and rights of individuals. The ACLU exists to defend and secure those rights.

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