In yet another similarity to the Dover case, the Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) will be defended in court free of charge by a religious right legal group, the Liberty Legal Institute. LLI should not be confused with Liberty Counsel, a more prominent religious right legal group affiliated with Jerry Falwell and Liberty University. ECISD is the Odessa, TX school district being sued for the sectarian nature of its elective Bible course, which uses the NCBCPS curriculum.
ECISD’s board of trustees voted 6-0 May 21 to have Plano-based Liberty Legal Institute represent ECISD at no cost in a federal lawsuit over its Bible course.
The Liberty Legal Institute — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1997 to deal with First Amendment rights and individual religious freedoms — offers legal services pro bono, or free of charge, to its clients, Hiram Sasser, litigation director for the Institute, said.
“Everything we do is going to be paid for by us,” Sasser said. “The district doesn’t have to pay a dime — nothing.”
It is not clear from the article whether Liberty Legal will also pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs if the school district loses the case. In the Dover case, of course, the Thomas More Law Center provided the defense pro bono but did not pay the $1 million in plaintiffs’ legal fees the district was forced to pay when they lost. I suspect that the same will be true here, but possibly not. I have heard reports that the NCBCPS actually indemnifies school districts against all financial losses if the curriculum is challenged in court. I don’t know that to be true, however; it is unconfirmed.