Difference between revisions of "ACLU"

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The ACLU has defended [[polygamy|polygamists]]{{fact-political}}.
The ACLU has defended [[polygamy|polygamists]]{{fact-political}}.
==ACLU and Fight against Racism==
Along with the [[NAACP]], led at the time by [[Thurgood Marshall]], the ACLU briefed and argued many influential Supreme Court opinions that led to the eradication of legal segregation.<ref>Examples: [[Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483]]</ref>  They have continued to defend racial equality since.<ref>http://www.aclu.org/racialjustice</ref>  Even recently, the ACLU fought to overturn prohibitions against renting buildings to immigrants<ref>http://civilliberty.about.com/od/historyprofiles/ss/news082206_3.htm</ref>

Revision as of 16:37, 28 April 2007

Current logo of the ACLU.

The ACLU is the American Civil Liberties Union, which was run for its first 30 years by an American socialist named Roger Baldwin, who helped found it in 1920. This organization is devoted to protecting the civil liberties of Americans and defending them in court.

Views of the ACLU Founder

In 1934, Roger Baldwin published his goals in Soviet Russia Today:[1]

I believe in non-violent methods of struggle as most effective in the long run for building up successful working class power. Where they cannot be followed or where they are not even permitted by the ruling class, obviously only violent tactics remain. I champion civil liberty as the best of the non-violent means of building the power on which workers rule must be based. If I aid the reactionaries to get free speech now and then, if I go outside the class struggle to fight against censorship, it is only because those liberties help to create a more hospitable atmosphere for working class liberties. The class struggle is the central conflict of the world; all others are incidental.
Proletarian Liberty in Practice
When that power of the working class is once achieved, as it has been only in the Soviet Union, I am for maintaining it by any means whatever. Dictatorship is the obvious means in a world of enemies at home and abroad. I dislike it in principle as dangerous to its own objects. But the Soviet Union has already created liberties far greater than exist elsewhere in the world. They are liberties that most closely affect the lives of the people — power in the trade unions, in peasant organizations, in the cultural life of nationalities, freedom of women in public and private life, and a tremendous development of education for adults and children. . . .

Baldwin and the ACLU purged any open communists from its ranks in 1940.

ACLU Against the Boy Scouts

The ACLU filed a lawsuit to prohibit the federal government from continuing to allow the Boy Scouts, a charitable organization for teenagers, to use an Army base in Virginia for a quadrennial gathering. In 2005, more than 40,000 Boy Scouts attended this National Boy Scout Jamboree.

Although the Boy Scouts have been conducting this Jamboree for 70 years, this lawsuit was not filed until 1999, after the Boy Scouts enforced its policy against having openly homosexual Scout leaders. The theory of the lawsuit was that because Scouts swear an oath of "duty to God," it violates the Establishment Clause for the government to allow this joint project.

A federal district court ruled for the ACLU, but the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit overturned the lower court ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit which will allow the government to continue to sponsor this event for the Boy Scouts.[2]

ACLU and the Establishment Clause

ACLU chapters frequently sue to compel removal of the Ten Commandments from public property. For example, in McCreary County v. ACLU, 545 U.S. 844 (2005), the ACLU of Kentucky forced two counties to remove displays of the Ten Commandments from their courthouses. In Utah, the ACLU even announced a scavenger hunt for anyone who could find a display of the Ten Commandments monument that the ACLU could demand be removed. The ACLU typically receives substantial legal fees from the government in each of these cases.

In 1994, the ACLU of New Jersey sued Jersey City, New Jersey to challenge a menorah and a Christmas tree at city hall. A federal district judge declared the display to be unconstitutional, but the appellate court, in a 2-1 opinion written by now-Justice Samuel Alito, found a modified display to be constitutional. ACLU of New Jersey v. Schundler (1999). Then-Judge Alito wrote, "government may celebrate Christmas in some manner and form, but not in a way that endorses Christian doctrine."

In 2007, the ACLU Foundation of Texas filed an amicus brief for removal of a longstanding monument to William Mosher outside Harris County Civil Courthouse because the statute contained a depiction of an open Bible. Staley v. Harris County, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 9296 (5th Cir. 2007). The court ruled that Harris County must pay attorneys fees to the Americans United For Separation of Church & State, which often appears along with the ACLU in demanding removal of religious symbols from government property and censoring criticism of evolution in public school.

Occasionally an ACLU chapter does side with a Christian student. The ACLU of Michigan defended a Christian student seeking to have a Biblical passage on the student's yearbook page.[3]

ACLU, Evolution, and the Establishment Clause

In 2004, the ACLU filed Selman v. Cobb County School District.[4] If the plaintiffs, five parents in the Georgia district, won the case, the school district would have to pay their lawyers. The ACLU argued [5] that the district had violated the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by putting stickers in biology textbooks that said, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."[6] The trial judge ruled in favor of the ACLU [7], but his ruling was vacated on appeal.[8] The case was eventually settled. The school district agreed to remove the stickers, to avoid altering science textbooks or making "any disclaimers regarding evolution", and to teach the state Board of Education's core curriculum, which includes evolution, although that wasn't under dispute in the original suit. In addition, they paid $166,669.12 to Atlanta law firm Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore.[9] [10]

Another example of ACLU litigation was Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.[11], also known as the Intelligent design case. The ACLU prevailed in prohibiting administrators from reading a short statement that mentions Intelligent Design to students, and forbade the school board from issuing a warning that Darwin's theory has gaps.[12] In his opinion, Judge John E. Jones III heavily relied on the later-vacated ruling in Selman v. Cobb County School District, and on ACLU briefs.[13] He also cited the Establishment test, the Lemon test, and the reasonable student standard.[14] The judge also ordered fees paid to the ACLU and its lawyers, totaling $2,067,000.[15]

Same-sex Marriage and the Homosexual Agenda

The ACLU of New Jersey filed an amicus curiae brief in favor of same-sex marriage in Lewis v. Harris, 188 N.J. 415 (1006). The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of civil unions, but by a 4-3 margin did not require same-sex marriage.

The ACLU sues schools when a student alleges encountering "anti-gay peer harassment and bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation." [16] The ACLU holds the school (and hence the taxpayers) liable for actions based on conduct by some students towards others.

The ACLU of Minnesota sued to force the Osseo Area School District to grant equal access to the schools public address (PA) system, yearbook, fundraising and field trips by a pro-homosexual school club named the Straights and Gays for Equality (“SAGE”).[17] The school district already had a club entitled "Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender, Questioning and Allies," and already had a SAGE club, but SAGE was designated as non-curricular and wanted the additional rights of communication.

The ACLU invoked the Equal Access Act to argue that as long as the school district granted these rights to other clubs, such as cheerleading and synchronized swimming, it must grant these rights to SAGE also. No, the school district argued in defending its action, cheerleading is related to physical education while SAGE is not, and thus SAGE should not have the same rights. However, there were other non phys-ed sports that got funding.

The district court ruled in favor of the ACLU, and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit unanimously affirmed. The Court ordered the school district to give SAGE the same rights as the cheerleading club. The ACLU will be able to demand substantial attorneys' fees at taxpayer expense.

Similarly, the ACLU of Florida sued the Okeechobee School Board to force it to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance club at Okeechobee High School. Though the school objected to this club as a "sex-based" club, the ACLU persuaded a federal judge to rule in its favor, and it will likely recover substantial attorneys fees at taxpayer expense. See Gay-Straight Alliance of Okeechobee High Sch. v. School Board of Okeechobee County, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25729 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 6, 2007).


The ACLU is generally against laws that reduce the number of abortions, such as parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion and informed consent for the mother herself. ACLU attorneys have argued several cases in support of abortion.


The ACLU has defended polygamistsTemplate:Fact-political.


  1. The Volokh Conspiracy (blog entry), Eugene Volokh, September 7, 2005 [1]
  2. See Essay:Boy Scouts Rout ACLU
  3. ACLU: After ACLU Intervention on Behalf of Christian Valedictorian, Michigan High School Agrees to Stop Censoring Religious Yearbook Entries (5/11/2004) [2]
  4. ACLU: Parents Challenge Evolution Disclaimer In Georgia Textbooks [3]
  5. ACLU Pretrial Brief in Selman et al v. Cobb County, 11/12/2004 [4]
  6. Judge's Decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District[5]
  7. Judge's Decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District[6]
  8. Appeal Decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District[7]
  9. "Agreement Ends Textbook Sticker Case", press release from Cobb County School District including settlement agreement [8]
  10. ACLU: Georgia School Board Drops Defense of Anti-Evolution Stickers[9]
  11. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District: Decision of the Court, 400 F.Supp.2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005) [10]
  12. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 400 F.Supp.2d 707.
  13. 90% of the section on intelligent design was from the ACLU's briefs. A Comparison of Judge Jones’ Opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover with Plaintiffs’ Proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law”, by David DeWolf & John West, Discovery Institute, December 12, 2006 [11]
  14. Kitzmiller, 400 F. Supp. 2d at 725 (coming to the conclusion reached in Selman by the Court's own reasoning), compare Selman v. Cobb County Sch. Dist, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 13005 (11th Cir. May 25, 2006) at *pincite needed*.
  15. See 42 U.S.C. s 1988 (describing relief afforded victorious plaintiff of a 1983 action as including attorney fees).
  16. http://www.aclu.org/lgbt/youth/28618prs20070221.html
  17. Straights & Gays for Equality v. Osseo Area Schs., 471 F.3d 908 (8th Cir. 2006).

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