The way most of your rights and freedoms will be taken from you is by the “sue-and-settle” method. Environmental radicals, in cooperation with the U.S. government, have been using it for years to harass property owners and small businesses. Intolerant gay-agenda activists are using it today to eliminate the exercise of their rights by business owners. And intolerant atheist activists are using it to squelch diversity and faith in the public square.
The beauty of “sue-and-settle,” for the essentially fascist project of silencing everything activists disagree with, is that it doesn’t require winning points of law. Sue-and-settle forces poorly funded defendants to back down, without the point being decided. It sets de facto precedents without setting de jure precedents. It becomes a warning to others, rather than becoming controlling law, but it functions well enough to intimidate and deter the people.
Sue-and-settle is a grave danger to your freedom and livelihood, and any one of us could be its next victim. It’s one of the practices that will need to be looked at for a severe gutting in a convention of the states. In my view, the correct way to address the problem in the federal court system is to emphasize draconian limits on what kinds of cases the federal courts may even take up. This power of limitation is already conferred on Congress by the Constitution. The states are likely to end up with some degree of variety in their arrangements – and they will have to pay the price if they choose to enforce radical intolerance on the backs of the middle class.
But what we have today is another example of the destructive impact of the sue-and-settle approach. Exhibit A is the small rural town of King, NC (pop. 6,900), located northwest of Winston-Salem, which has had a statue of a soldier kneeling before a cross at its veterans’ memorial. The city has also had a Christian flag displayed there, on a lottery basis:
The [King city] council approved a limited public forum policy that December , a lottery procedure which determined who could fly a religious flag or no flag each week in honor of a veteran at the Veteran’s Memorial. The Christian flag flew there most weeks.
In 2012, the intolerant activist group Americans United for Separation of Church and State assisted Mr. Steven Hewett, a veteran who had served in Afghanistan, in suing the city to remove the statue and end the flag lottery. (See here as well.)
The city originally planned to fight the suit. But after $50,000 in legal expenses, and the expectation of at least $2 million more, King had to throw in the towel last week. Its insurance would only cover $1 million of the projected fees, and the town would lose its coverage if it went ahead with the suit.
Last Tuesday, the city council reluctantly decided to settle. Mr. Hewett will receive only a token $1.00 in damages, but will have the satisfaction of knowing that he has imposed a hateful and intolerant outcome on his fellow townsmen.
It’s important to note, as with all of these activist attacks through the courts, that most of the people who fall into the activists’ belief categories are not intolerant bigots. Most atheists aren’t trying to sue their fellow men into submission. Neither are most gays. It’s a small minority of obsessed radicals who can’t abide knowing that there is dissent from their views abroad in the land, including other people actually living according to their own beliefs.
That said, clearly, one way ahead for King residents who have beloved veterans to commemorate would be to set up a private memorial, and give citizens the option of choosing the public or private venue for their vets’ memories. I suspect the offering of a private memorial where the praying-soldier statue could be displayed, along with a Christian flag, would get a lot of takers.
Proponents of actual tolerance should not endorse outcomes like the one in King by continuing to participate in public venues and activities that have been rendered intolerant and bigoted by sue-and-settle attacks. We all have to agree to the same traffic laws, but we don’t all have to agree to a lie about our nation’s political philosophy as the basis of shared public activities. We may have to simply share fewer activities for a time, and withdraw the imprimatur of local government from certain ceremonies. But the truth is more important than an agreement founded on corruption, and it will win out in the end.