Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In Defense Of The ACLU

In spite of the obvious irony of an accountant attempting to defend an organization of attorneys, I feel compelled to answer in defense of an organization which has received donations from me in the past.

I have had forwarded to me the ten reasons the ACLU should be opposed, as listed by StopTheACLU.org, a blog dedicated to this questionable cause. I will address them in the order they are presented on the blog.

The ACLU was founded by a Communist, with communist ideals, communist goals, and they continue to impose a Communist like agenda on America daily.

It's true that ACLU founder Roger Nash Baldwin was an avowed Communist and Socialist, and was a lifelong pacifist. Baldwin was also very critical of the social inequities caused by "free market" capitalism, inequities which persist today. Baldwin publicly distanced himself from both the Communist and Socialist movements, though, in 1939, in response to the social degradation of the Soviet Union and it's diplomatic relationship with Nazi Germany.
Baldwin fought tirelessly his entire life to further the aims of the poor and working classes, and was also a respected scholar in juvenile law. He received worldwide acclaim and recognition for his work, at the request of General MacArthur, in the post-WWII reconstruction of Japan and Germany, receiving commendations from both countries. Shortly before his death in 1981, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter.
The ACLU of today still ardently supports the rights of workers, which could be very loosely described as "supporting Communist ideals", though such belief would make well over half of the American people Communists by default. The ACLU works to support individual rights as expressed in the Constitution, which is certainly not a "Communist-like agenda". Continuing to accuse the ACLU of having a Communist agenda because of the views its founder held as a young man is just dishonest.

The ACLU does not believe in the Second Amendment.

This statement is missing an important qualifier at the end: "...as interpreted by some libertarian gun enthusiasts." The Second Amendment, like all of the Constitution, is subject to interpretation and the ACLU explains its interpretation thus:

The national ACLU is neutral on the issue of gun control. We believe that the Constitution contains no barriers to reasonable regulations of gun ownership. If we can license and register cars, we can license and register guns.

Most opponents of gun control concede that the Second Amendment certainly does not guarantee an individual's right to own bazookas, missiles or nuclear warheads. Yet these, like rifles, pistols and even submachine guns, are arms.

The question therefore is not whether to restrict arms ownership, but how much to restrict it. If that is a question left open by the Constitution, then it is a question for Congress to decide.

"The ACLU agrees with the Supreme Court's long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment [as set forth in the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller] that the individual's right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, there is no constitutional impediment to the regulation of firearms." --Policy #47

I have little to add other than I agree with this interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Their outright hatred of the Boy Scouts.

Yet another gross distortion of the truth. The ACLU's policy on homosexuality is that the same anti-discrimination laws that protect religion and race also protect sexuality. In the case of Boy Scouts of America vs. James Dale, the New Jersey appellate court essentially ruled that an organization with an open associative structure, such as the Boy Scouts, does not have the right under the First Amendment to discriminate based on sexuality. Membership that is open to "Any boy" (which is in the Boy Scouts' charter), cannot abridge that membership based on sexual orientation.
This complaint has nothing to do with the ACLU and everything to do with the conservative Christian belief that gays should be treated as second class citizens. It's rank bigotry which, by opposing such, the ACLU makes itself a target.

The ACLU are pro-death.

As above, the ACLU supports the legal right of women to make their own reproductive choices and supports a Constitutional right to privacy over life and death issues. Conservative Christians believe that sexuality and reproduction are not private issues, but should be decided publicly with deference to Biblical interpretations. An ideological difference wherein the ACLU just happens to be on the side of the Constitution and settled law, while the conservative Christians are on the side of 14th century Biblical medievalism.

The ACLU advocate open borders.

This is just an outright lie. The ACLU recognizes that the Constitution does not give foreigners the right to enter the United States. However, it does confer rights upon them once they are here. Every generation in the United States has had to deal with immigration, and most every wave of immigrants has faced the same overt discrimination and racism that immigrants face today. The ACLU stands in direct opposition to that treatment being institutionalized by the states or federal governments.
As an aside, StopTheACLU.org mentions the "Minute Men" as "a group exercising their free speech rights." Just to clarify: nothing in the First Amendment gives a bunch of racist rednecks the right to terrorize impoverished Mexicans for their own sport. The "Minute Men" are an abomination and a dishonor to the name.

The ACLU is anti-Christian.

Another lie, easily debunked. The ACLU has filed case after case over the years in support of the right to free religious expression. Conservative Christians, however, want their faith instituted as the "One True Faith" in the United States and are thus critical of any group that opposes such theocratic leanings.
Some sample cases from 2005:

September 20, 2005: ACLU of New Jersey joins lawsuit supporting second-grader's right to sing "Awesome God" at a talent show.

August 4, 2005: ACLU helps free a New Mexico street preacher from prison.

May 25, 2005: ACLU sues Wisconsin prison on behalf of a Muslim woman who was forced to remove her headscarf in front of male guards and prisoners.

February 2005: ACLU of Pennsylvania successfully defends the right of an African American Evangelical church to occupy a church building purchased in a predominantly white parish.

The evidence overwhelmingly speaks for itself. Blaming the ACLU for certain religious conservatives being ignorant of their rights seems terribly unfair given the ACLU's track record of supporting those same religious conservatives.

The ACLU Opposes National Security.

No group in the United States opposes national security and the ACLU is no exception. However, the ACLU goes even further by protecting the Constitutional rights of Americans from being abridged by the government under the auspice of national security. Past atrocities like the Palmer raids and the Japaneintermentent camps have represented grave threats to everything America stands for and the ACLU remains constantly vigilant to prevent such atrocities in the future. It's alarming that certain conservative groups appear to support fascism in the name of national security. Very alarming...

The ACLU Defend the enemy.

The ACLU defends the rights of American citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution. Sometimes this results in cases where the ACLU is defending those who have tried to harm America or support its enemies. Even Americans who commit seditious acts are still entitled to their rights under the Constitution and the ACLU should be commended, not decried, for taking such cases. The alternative is mob rule, which, of course, conservatives think is perfectly just in a democracy. Plus, since conservatives seem to have no problem abridging the rights of ordinary Americans, certainly those labeled as "The Enemy" are going to get little regard.

The ACLU supports child porn distribution and child molesters like NAMBLA.

This is a low blow even by the already gutter standards of StopTheACLU.org. The ACLU has spent 80 years defending the rights of individuals and has certainly never made an exception for children. The ACLU's position is that "adult media" is protected free speech and cannot be abridged just because a certain amount of Americans find it offensive. Guarding against the tyranny of majority rule is why the United States has a Bill of Rights in the first place. In any case, federal laws have since been written that outlaw the production, distribution, purchase or ownership of such materials, though the ACLU does carefully watch the prosecution of such laws in order to insure that they do not overstep the Constitution.

The ACLU fulfills its agenda using my tax money.

courseuse, at the end of the day, it's all about money for the conservative right. The ACLU lawyers collect legal fees and awards just like any other attorneys. This complaint feeds off of the biggest conservative fear, the one that trumps any sort of religious doctrine: the belief that someone, somewhere is getting something conservatives feel rightly belongs to them.

In closing of this monster post, I would also like to note that StopTheACLU.org's overwhelmingly biggest complaint is that the ACLU stands in the way of majority rule. StopTheACLU.org believes, as do many conservatives, that democracy means purely majority rule. Such rank ignorance of the Constitution is laughable. The Founding Fathers were wise enough to recognize that purely majority rule causes permanent underclasses and social strife, which leads to governmental collapse and civil war. In any case, even conservative ideologues, such as Rush Limbaugh, expect the ACLU to defend them when they feel their rights have been trampled. These ten objections to the ACLU are based in nothing but ignorance, bigotry and intolerance and clearly demonstrate why the ACLU is needed in the first place.

[Thanks to reader Daniel Levesque for the topic.]


Anonymous said...

Love your comments. I always defend the ACLU. They're neither Liberal or Conservative. They're Civil Libertarians. They'll defend the KKK and the Black Panthers in the same day.

Anonymous said...

Totally Disagree, you were too easy on the ACLU. You basically reprinted their FAQ and their Press releases.

You're views on conservative christians were extreme and wrong, you were doing to them what you claim they do the ACLU

If you go deeper on certian things you will find the ACLU is anything but Altruistic.

I would never go near the ACLU, if there was any groups that destroys civil rights, it's them.

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Anonymous said...

You're way off on the Boy Scout defense. It's not about Christian belief at all, rather it is about co-ed living. Why have Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts? Wouldn't it be simpler to just have Scouts? Yes, but the obvious problem is the need for separation of the sexes for logical reasons that don't need to be pointed out. Boy Scouts routinely share living quarters and bathing facilities during camping trips. If we are so concerned about sexuality as to necessitate the need for completely disjoint organizations for male and female, it is not unreasonable for the Boy Scouts to prohibit homosexuals. For a person to even acknowledge that they are homosexual is proof that they have reached an age where sexual attraction is a conscious thought. That is the pivotal point that seems to be missed by people like you. Sexual attraction is THE reason males and females have separate facilities in so many cases. It is unfair to expect the Boy Scouts to accept homosexuals or to even make accommodations. It's a matter of common sense that most of the world sees with men and women, but doesn't want to acknowledge with same-sex attraction.

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