American Civil Liberties Union

American Civil Liberties Union

Overview
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a U.S. non-profit organization
Non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...

 whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 and laws of the United States." (see also civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

)
It works through litigation, legislation, and community education. The ACLU consists of two separate non-profits: the ACLU Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization which focuses on litigation and communication efforts, and the American Civil Liberties Union, a 501(c)(4) organization which focuses on legislative lobbying
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

.
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Quotations

The ACLU has stood foursquare against the recurring tides of hysteria that from time to time threaten freedoms everywhere.

Earl Warren|Chief Justice Earl Warren

America needs a civil liberties union. It no longer has one. I still make my contribution because the ACLU still does some good, but if things don't change, it could become an enemy of free speech.

Professor Alan Dershowitz|Alan Dershowitz, 25-year ACLU member

I'm glad the ACLU raises the objections it does, because it forces the government and Congress to be mindful of First Amendment rights.

U.S. Representative Henry Hyde|Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), 2003

Finally, the ACLU -- we talked about this yesterday and I -- and, you know, I have to pick on the ACLU because they're the most dangerous organization in the United States of America right now. There's by far. There's nobody even close to that. They're, like, second next to Al Qaeda|Al Qaeda.

Bill O'Reilly (commentator)|Bill O'Reilly on 2 June 2004

[The ACLU is] thew worst vermin America ha ever tolerated. The worst vermin in America are the vermin in the ACLU.

Michael Savage
Encyclopedia
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a U.S. non-profit organization
Non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...

 whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 and laws of the United States." (see also civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

)
It works through litigation, legislation, and community education. The ACLU consists of two separate non-profits: the ACLU Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization which focuses on litigation and communication efforts, and the American Civil Liberties Union, a 501(c)(4) organization which focuses on legislative lobbying
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

. Founded in 1920 by Crystal Eastman
Crystal Eastman
Crystal Catherine Eastman was a lawyer, antimilitarist, feminist, socialist, and journalist. She is best remembered as a leader in the fight for women's right to vote, as a co-editor of the radical arts and politics magazine The Liberator, and as a co-founder of the Women's International League...

, Roger Baldwin
Roger Nash Baldwin
Roger Nash Baldwin was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union . He served as executive director of the ACLU until 1950....

 and Walter Nelles
Walter Nelles
Nelles, Walter . A graduate of Harvard Law School, professor of law at Yale University, founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union during World War I....

, the ACLU was the successor organization to the earlier National Civil Liberties Bureau
National Civil Liberties Bureau
The National Civil Liberties Bureau was an American civil rights organization. In 1920, it changed its name to the American Civil Liberties Union ....

 founded during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The ACLU reported over 500,000 members in 2010.

Lawsuits brought by the ACLU have been influential in the evolution of Constitutional law. The ACLU provides legal assistance in cases in which it considers civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

 to be at risk. Even when the ACLU does not provide direct legal representation, it often submits amicus curiae
Amicus curiae
An amicus curiae is someone, not a party to a case, who volunteers to offer information to assist a court in deciding a matter before it...

briefs
Brief (law)
A brief is a written legal document used in various legal adversarial systems that is presented to a court arguing why the party to the case should prevail....

. The organization's present aims include getting the U.S. government to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government assassination lists.

Outside of its legal work, the organization has also engaged in lobbying of elected officials and political activism. The ACLU has been critical of elected officials and policies of both Democrats
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 and Republicans
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

.

History


Roger Nash Baldwin
Roger Nash Baldwin
Roger Nash Baldwin was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union . He served as executive director of the ACLU until 1950....

 became head of the National Civil Liberties Bureau
National Civil Liberties Bureau
The National Civil Liberties Bureau was an American civil rights organization. In 1920, it changed its name to the American Civil Liberties Union ....

 (NCLB) in 1917. An independent outgrowth of the American Union Against Militarism
American Union Against Militarism
The American Union Against Militarism was an American pacifist organization active established in response to World War I. The organization attempted to keep the United States out of the European conflict through mass demonstrations, public lectures, and the printed word...

, the Bureau opposed American intervention in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The NCLB provided legal advice and aid for conscientious objector
Conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....

s and those being prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917
Espionage Act of 1917
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code but is now found under Title 18, Crime...

 or the Sedition Act of 1918
Sedition Act of 1918
The Sedition Act of 1918 was an Act of the United States Congress that extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds...

. In 1920, the NCLB changed its name to the American Civil Liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

 Union, with Baldwin continuing as its director and Walter Nelles
Walter Nelles
Nelles, Walter . A graduate of Harvard Law School, professor of law at Yale University, founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union during World War I....

 as chief counsel. Jeannette Rankin
Jeannette Rankin
Jeannette Pickering Rankin was the first woman in the US Congress. A Republican, she was elected statewide in Montana in 1916 and again in 1940. A lifelong pacifist, she voted against the entry of the United States into both World War I in 1917 and World War II in 1941, the only member of Congress...

, Jane Addams
Jane Addams
Jane Addams was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace...

, Crystal Eastman
Crystal Eastman
Crystal Catherine Eastman was a lawyer, antimilitarist, feminist, socialist, and journalist. She is best remembered as a leader in the fight for women's right to vote, as a co-editor of the radical arts and politics magazine The Liberator, and as a co-founder of the Women's International League...

, Albert DeSilver
Albert DeSilver
Albert DeSilver was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union .DeSilver graduated from Yale in 1910, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, and then earned a law degree at Columbia Law School...

, Helen Keller
Helen Keller
Helen Adams Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree....

, along with other former members of the NCLB, assisted Baldwin with the founding of the ACLU. Among the founding members was Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.-Early life:Frankfurter was born into a Jewish family on November 15, 1882, in Vienna, Austria, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Europe. He was the third of six children of Leopold and Emma Frankfurter...

, who later became an Associate Justice
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

 of the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

. DeSilver and Nelles were Baldwin's closest associates.

The ACLU was formed to protect aliens threatened with deportation, along with U.S. nationals threatened with criminal charges by U.S. Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 Alexander Mitchell Palmer
Alexander Mitchell Palmer
Alexander Mitchell Palmer was Attorney General of the United States from 1919 to 1921. He was nicknamed The Fighting Quaker and he directed the controversial Palmer Raids.-Congressional career:...

 for their communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 or socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 activities and agendas (see Palmer Raids
Palmer Raids
The Palmer Raids were attempts by the United States Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States. The raids and arrests occurred in November 1919 and January 1920 under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer...

). It also opposed attacks on the rights of the Industrial Workers of the World
Industrial Workers of the World
The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...

 (IWW) and other labor union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

s to meet and organize.

In 1940, the ACLU formally barred communists from leadership or staff positions, and would take the position that it did not want communists as members either. The board declared that it was "inappropriate for any person to serve on the governing committees of the Union or its staff, who is a member of any political organization which supports totalitarianism in any country, or who by his public declarations indicates his support of such a principle." The purge, which was led by Baldwin, himself a former supporter of communism, began with the ouster of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a labor leader, activist, and feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World . Flynn was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a visible proponent of women's rights, birth control, and women's suffrage...

, a member of both the Communist Party USA
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA is a Marxist political party in the United States, established in 1919. It has a long, complex history that is closely related to the histories of similar communist parties worldwide and the U.S. labor movement....

 and the Industrial Workers of the World
Industrial Workers of the World
The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...

. The ACLU's chairman since its founding, Harry F. Ward
Harry F. Ward
Harry F. Ward was an American Methodist minister and left-wing activist. He was the first chairman of the ACLU, leading the group from its creation in 1920 until 1940. Ward was a prominent defender of Soviet Communism, although he didn't label himself as a Communist; this ultimately led to his...

, resigned in protest of the decision. But, the resolution was rescinded in 1967, allowing Communist Party members to rejoin the ACLU and in 1976, the ACLU restored Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's membership posthumously.

Conservatives and Republican have frequently criticized the ACLU. One well-known example occurred during the 1988 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1988
The United States presidential election of 1988 featured no incumbent president, as President Ronald Reagan was unable to seek re-election after serving the maximum two terms allowed by the Twenty-second Amendment. Reagan's Vice President, George H. W. Bush, won the Republican nomination, while the...

: then-Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 noted that his opponent Michael Dukakis
Michael Dukakis
Michael Stanley Dukakis served as the 65th and 67th Governor of Massachusetts from 1975–1979 and from 1983–1991, and was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988. He was born to Greek immigrants in Brookline, Massachusetts, also the birthplace of John F. Kennedy, and was the longest serving...

 had described himself as a "card-carrying member of the ACLU" and used that as evidence that Dukakis was "a strong, passionate liberal" and "out of the mainstream." The phrase subsequently was used by the organization in an advertising campaign.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

 and the ensuing debate regarding the proper balance of civil liberties and security, including the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act
USA PATRIOT Act
The USA PATRIOT Act is an Act of the U.S. Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001...

, the membership of the ACLU increased by 20%, bringing the group's total enrollment to 330,000. The growth continued, and by August 2008 ACLU membership was greater than 500,000. It remained at that level in 2010.

Leadership


Currently, the leadership of the ACLU includes Executive Director Anthony Romero
Anthony Romero
Anthony D. Romero is the American executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.-Early life:Romero was born in New York City on July 9, 1965 to Puerto Rican parents Demetrio and Coralie Romero. He was raised in the Bronx.-Education:...

 and President Susan Herman. The national board of directors consists of representatives elected by each state affiliate as well as at-large delegates elected by boards of each affiliate. Each state affiliate has an Executive Director and Board of Directors.

Notably, Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice and the first Jewish female justice.She is generally viewed as belonging to...

, a current Justice of the Supreme Court, was the first director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. Judith Krug
Judith Krug
Judith Fingeret Krug was an American librarian and anti-censorship activist. She was appointed as the Director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom in 1967 and Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation in 1969...

, Director of the American Library Association
American Library Association
The American Library Association is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members....

 Office for Intellectual Freedom since 1967, was for three years concurrently on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Division of the ACLU.

In 2005, in response to increasing internal strife, the ACLU national board attempted to impose what many critics labeled a "gag rule" on its employees. The proposal included the rule that "a board member may publicly disagree with an ACLU policy position, but may not criticize the ACLU Board or staff." The measures proved highly unpopular with free speech advocates within the ACLU, and were eventually shelved.

Funding


The ACLU receives funding from a large number of sources. For example, in 2004, the ACLU and its affiliate, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation reported revenues totaling $85,559,887. Of that total, 87% was from donations and dues from the public, 1.8% from program services, including awards of legal fees, royalty income, and literature sales, and the remainder from investment income and income from sale of assets. The distribution and amount of funding for state affiliates varies from state to state. For example, the ACLU of New Jersey
American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit civil rights organization in Newark, New Jersey and an affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union...

 reported $1.2 million in income to both the ACLU-NJ and its affiliated tax-exempt foundation in the 2005 fiscal year. Of that income, 46% came from contributions, 19% came from membership dues, 18% came from court awarded attorney fees, 12% came from grants, 4% came from investment income and the remainder from other sources. Its expenses in the same period were $800,000, of which 12% went to administration and management. Smaller affiliates with fewer resources, such as that in Nebraska, receive subsidies from the national ACLU.

Foundations


In October 2004, the ACLU rejected $1.5 million from both the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations because the Foundations had adopted language from the USA PATRIOT Act in their donation agreements, including a clause stipulating that none of the money would go to "underwriting terrorism or other unacceptable activities." The ACLU views this clause, both in Federal law and in the donors' agreements, as a threat to civil liberties, saying it is overly broad and ambiguous.

Court-awarded damages and attorney's fees


In 2004, court-awarded damages and attorney fees comprised 3% (net) of ACLU Foundation funding; state affiliates also receive money from such fees, although the national headquarters does not.

Recovery of attorney's' fees by non-profit legal advocacy organizations is common practice. The pro-life
Pro-life
Opposition to the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-life, or anti-abortion, movement, a social and political movement opposing elective abortion on moral grounds and supporting its legal prohibition or restriction...

 Thomas More Law Center
Thomas More Law Center
The Thomas More Law Center is a prominent conservative Christian, not-for-profit law center based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is active throughout the United States. Its stated goals are defending the religious freedom of Christians, restoring "time honored values" and protecting the sanctity of...

, for example, generally seeks, and is successful in, recovery of attorney's fees in the same manner as the ACLU. In 2005, the Thomas More law center derived 4.8% of its funding from court-awarded legal fees in this manner.

Due to the nature of its legal work, the ACLU is often involved in litigation against governmental bodies, which are generally protected from adverse monetary judgments: a town, state or federal agency may be required to change its laws or behave differently, but not to pay monetary damages except by an explicit statutory waiver.

In some cases, the law permits plaintiffs who successfully sue government agencies to collect money damages or other monetary relief. In particular, the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976
Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976
The Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976 is a law of the United States. It is often referred to as "Section 1988". It allows a Federal court to award reasonable attorneys' fees to a prevailing party in certain civil rights cases....

 leaves the government liable in some civil rights cases. Fee awards under this civil rights statute are considered "equitable relief" rather than damages, and government entities are not immune from equitable relief. Under laws such as this, the ACLU and its state affiliates sometimes share in monetary judgments against government agencies.

The ACLU has received court awarded fees in numerous church-state cases. The Georgia affiliate was awarded $150,000 in fees after suing a county demanding the removal of a Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

 display from its courthouse; a second Ten Commandments case in the State, in a different county, led to a $74,462 judgment. Meanwhile, the State of Tennessee was required to pay $50,000, the State of Alabama $175,000, and the State of Kentucky $121,500, in similar Ten Commandments cases. The Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005, introduced by Representative John Hostettler
John Hostettler
John Nathan Hostettler , was a Republican candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat in the state of Indiana held by retiring Senator Evan Bayh. On December 3, 2009, Hostettler announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, but lost to former Senator Dan Coats.Hostettler served in the U.S...

, sought to alter the rules put in place by the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976 to prevent monetary judgments in the particular case of violations of church-state separation. Also, groups such as the American Legion
American Legion
The American Legion is a mutual-aid organization of veterans of the United States armed forces chartered by the United States Congress. It was founded to benefit those veterans who served during a wartime period as defined by Congress...

 have taken stances opposing the ACLU's right to collect fees under such legislation.

Organizational structure



The national headquarters of the ACLU is located in New York City. The organization does most of its work through 54 locally based affiliates and associated chapters, each of which have staff and a board of directors. The affiliates generally correspond to state (or equivalent) lines; Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico each have an affiliate and California has three affiliates (Missouri has two, with Western Missouri combined with Kansas). These affiliates maintain a certain amount of governing autonomy from the national organization, and are able to work independently from each other, if they choose to do so. Many of the ACLU's cases originate or are handled from the local level and are also handled by local lawyers from the individual affiliates.

Affiliates (the state organizations) are the basic unit of the ACLU's organization and engage in litigation, lobbying, and public education. For example, in a twenty-month period beginning January 2004, the ACLU's New Jersey chapter was involved in fifty-one cases according to their annual report—thirty-five cases in state courts, and sixteen in federal court
United States federal courts
The United States federal courts make up the judiciary branch of federal government of the United States organized under the United States Constitution and laws of the federal government.-Categories:...

. They provided legal representation in thirty-three of those cases, and served as amicus in the remaining eighteen. They listed forty-four volunteer attorneys who assisted them in those cases.

Each legal foundation and political affiliate is registered as a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) entity, respectively.

Positions


While the bulk of the ACLU's cases involve the First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

, Equal Protection
Equal Protection Clause
The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"...

, due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

, and the right to privacy
Privacy
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively...

, the organization has taken positions on a wide range of issues. According to the ACLU, it supports:
  • Religious liberty
    Freedom of religion in the United States
    In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson....

    : Defends the individual rights of Americans of all religions to practice and/or display affirmations of their faith in public, but not on public property with government sponsorship or endorsement.
  • Drug policy reform
    Drug policy reform
    Drug policy reform, also known as drug law reform, is a term used to describe proposed changes to the way most governments respond to the socio-cultural influence on perception of psychoactive substance use...

      to reduce harm and promote sustainable health and well-being by bringing about a just, effective and humane system to regulate and control drugs.
  • Separation of church and state
    Separation of church and state in the United States
    The phrase "separation of church and state" , attributed to Thomas Jefferson and others, and since quoted by the Supreme Court of the United States, expresses an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States...

    ; under this mandate, the ACLU:
    • Opposes the government-sponsored display of religious symbols on public property.
    • Opposes official prayers, religious ceremonies, and some kinds of "moments of silence
      Moment of silence
      A moment of silence is the expression for a period of silent contemplation, prayer, reflection, or meditation. Similar to flying a flag at half-mast, a moment of silence is often a gesture of respect, particularly in mourning for those who have recently died or as part of a commemoration ceremony...

      " in public schools or schools funded with public money.
  • Almost full freedom of speech
    Freedom of speech in the United States
    Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws, with the exception of obscenity, defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words, as well as harassment, privileged...

     and of the press, including school newspapers and points of view even most ACLU members disagree with. The ACLU said to a House Subcommittee:Statement to House subcommittee, May 286, 2010:
The ACLU accepts reasonable freedom of expression limits. These include restrictions on intimidation, Libel, and information related to National Security if it would result in "direct, immediate, and irreparable" harm to the nation.
  • Abolition of capital punishment
    Capital punishment
    Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

    .
  • Reproductive rights
    Reproductive rights
    Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health. The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows:...

    , including access to contraception
    Birth control
    Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

     and abortion
    Abortion in the United States
    Abortion in the United States has been legal in every state since the United States Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, on January 22, 1973...

    .
  • Full civil rights for LGBT
    LGBT
    LGBT is an initialism that collectively refers to "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender" people. In use since the 1990s, the term "LGBT" is an adaptation of the initialism "LGB", which itself started replacing the phrase "gay community" beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s, which many within the...

     (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, including government benefits for same-sex couples equal to those provided for heterosexual ones.
  • Affirmative action
    Affirmative action in the United States
    In the United States, affirmative action refers to equal opportunity employment measures that Federal contractors and subcontractors are legally required to adopt. These measures are intended to prevent discrimination against employees or applicants for employment, on the basis of "color,...

     as a means of redressing past discrimination and achieving a racially diverse student body.
  • The rights of defendants and suspects against unconstitutional police practices.
  • Privacy as it "works to preserve the American tradition that the government not track individuals or violate privacy unless it has evidence of wrongdoing."
  • Immigrants'
    Immigration to the United States
    Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of the United States. The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants,...

     rights by "challenging unconstitutional laws and practices, countering the myths upon which many of these laws are based."
  • Concerning the Second Amendment, specifically gun control
    Gun politics
    Gun politics addresses safety issues and ideologies related to firearms through criminal and noncriminal use. Gun politics deals with rules, regulations, and restrictions on the use, ownership, and distribution of firearms.-National sovereignty:...

    , "the ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. Heller takes a different approach than the ACLU has advocated. At the same time, it leaves many unresolved questions, including what firearms are protected by the Second Amendment, what regulations (short of an outright ban) may be upheld, and how that determination will be made." However, state level ACLU affiliates are free to take positions differing from the national organization's; in 2008, the Nevada ACLU announced that they were changing their position to support "the individual’s right to bear arms subject to constitutionally permissible regulations."

The ACLU has opposed some campaign finance reform
Campaign finance reform
Campaign finance reform is the common term for the political effort in the United States to change the involvement of money in politics, primarily in political campaigns....

 laws such as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 is a United States federal law that amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which regulates the financing of political campaigns. Its chief sponsors were Senators Russell Feingold and John McCain...

, which it considers an inappropriate restriction upon freedom of expression. It does not have a policy of blanket opposition to all laws on campaign finance.

While the ACLU does oppose the use of crosses in public monuments, there have been false allegations that the ACLU has urged the removal of cross-shaped headstones from federal cemeteries and has opposed prayer by soldiers; such charges have been deemed to be urban legends.

Controversial stances



The ACLU has for years been a controversial organization. The reasons for opposition are varied, although conservatives often view the ACLU stance of separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

 as anti-religious, and their defense of both accused and convicted criminals as undermining law and order
Law and order (politics)
In politics, law and order refers to demands for a strict criminal justice system, especially in relation to violent and property crime, through harsher criminal penalties...

. Furthermore, the nature of the ACLU is that they defend even the most unpopular forms of speech and expression, notably those with which most other organizations would not wish to associate themselves. Often, its clients are notoriously unpopular such as Neo-Nazi
Neo-Nazism
Neo-Nazism consists of post-World War II social or political movements seeking to revive Nazism or some variant thereof.The term neo-Nazism can also refer to the ideology of these movements....

 organizations and the North American Man/Boy Love Association
North American Man/Boy Love Association
The North American Man/Boy Love Association is a pedophile and pederasty advocacy organization in the United States that works to abolish age of consent laws criminalizing adult sexual involvement with minors, and for the release of all men who have been jailed for sexual contacts with minors that...

 (NAMBLA), a group which supports lifting all age restrictions
Age of consent reform
Age of consent reform refers to efforts to change age of consent laws, whether to raise or lower or abolish the age of consent, or to change the ways in which the laws are applied. Another issue has been homosexual vs...

 on pederasty
Pederasty
Pederasty or paederasty is an intimate relationship between an adult and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family. The word pederasty derives from Greek "love of boys", a compound derived from "child, boy" and "lover".Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and...

. In the case of NAMBLA, the ACLU's Massachusetts affiliate represented the organization, on first amendment grounds, in a wrongful death civil suit
Curley v. NAMBLA
Curley v. NAMBLA was a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 2000, by Barbara and Robert Curley against the North American Man/Boy Love Association . The American Civil Liberties Union represented NAMBLA and was successful in getting...

 that was based solely on the fact that a man who raped and murdered a child had visited the NAMBLA website. Although the ACLU does not endorse NAMBLA's message, its defense of the group has been widely criticized. Additionally, the ACLU has joined several court cases against government funding of organizations that discriminate against homosexuals and atheists, prominently including the Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over 4.5 million youth members in its age-related divisions...

.

Among the most notable controversial cases which involved the ACLU are the following:
  • The ACLU currently opposes, under the ex post facto
    Ex post facto law
    An ex post facto law or retroactive law is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of actions committed or relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law...

     clause of the Constitution, the retroactive application of Megan’s Law
    Megan's Law
    Megan's Law is an informal name for laws in the United States requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. Individual states decide what information will be made available and how it should be disseminated...

     (which requires law enforcement authorities to identify convicted sex offenders to the public at large through various media outlets) to persons convicted before the law was passed. The ACLU initially opposed the bill in its entirety, considering it "misguided political posturing that [would] do nothing to reduce sex crimes".
  • The ACLU also defended Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North
    Oliver North
    Oliver Laurence North is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, political commentator, host of War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News Channel, a military historian, and a New York Times best-selling author....

    , whose conviction was tainted by coerced testimony — a violation of his fifth amendment rights
    Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
    The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, protects against abuse of government authority in a legal procedure. Its guarantees stem from English common law which traces back to the Magna Carta in 1215...

    .
  • The ACLU fought for the Westboro Baptist Church
    Westboro Baptist Church
    The Westboro Baptist Church is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag. The church is widely described as a hate group and is monitored as such by the...

     and Shirley Phelps-Roper
    Shirley Phelps-Roper
    Shirley Lynn Phelps-Roper is an American lawyer and political activist. She is best known as the spokesperson of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, an organization known for its highly publicized public protests conducted under the slogan "God Hates...

     after legislation prevented the group from picketing outside of veterans' funerals
    Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act
    The Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act is an Act of Congress that prohibits protests within 300 feet of the entrance of any cemetery under control of the National Cemetery Administration from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral...

    . The Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for their picket signs that contain messages such as, "God Hates Fags," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11." The ACLU issued a statement calling the legislation a "law that infringes on Shirley Phelps-Roper's rights to religious liberty and free speech." The suit was successful.
  • The ACLU has filed 6 lawsuits against the Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana
    Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana
    Tangipahoa Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana, one of the Florida Parishes. The parish seat is Amite City, but the major city is Hammond. As of 2006, the population was 113,137...

     school board over what the group sees as teacher-led prayer in school activities. The ACLU is also defending Christian athletes posting the ten commandments on their lockers, over the objections of their Virginia high school.
  • The ACLU defended Frank Snepp
    Frank Snepp
    Frank Warren Snepp is a journalist and former chief analyst of North Vietnamese strategy for the Central Intelligence Agency in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Five out of eight years in the CIA, he worked as interrogator, agent debriefer, and chief CIA strategy analyst in the US Embassy, Saigon...

    , formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency
    Central Intelligence Agency
    The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

    , from an attempt by the government agency to enforce a gag order
    Gag order
    A gag order is an order, sometimes a legal order by a court or government, other times a private order by an employer or other institution, restricting information or comment from being made public.Gag orders are often used against participants involved in a lawsuit or criminal trial...

     against him.
  • The ACLU has aided the Florida Justice Institute
    Florida Justice Institute
    The Florida Justice Institute is a public interest law firm in Miami, Florida. The firm is headquartered at 100 SE 2nd St in the Miami Tower in Downtown Miami. It was established in 1978 by Randall C. Berg, Jr.. The institute has been dedicated to improving conditions in Florida's prison system...

     and WriteAPrisoner.com
    Writeaprisoner.com
    WriteAPrisoner.com is an online Florida, based business whose stated goal is to reduce recidivism through a variety of methods that include: 1) positive correspondence with pen-pals on the outside, 2) educational opportunities, 3) job placement avenues, 4) comprehensive resource guides on a...

     in supporting prisoner's rights, especially what the ACLU sees as the First Amendment right to post online profiles seeking pen pals during their incarceration and jobs upon their release.
  • In 2006, the ACLU of Washington State and the Second Amendment Foundation
    Second Amendment Foundation
    The Second Amendment Foundation or SAF is an educational- and legal-defense organization which describes its mission as “promoting a better understanding about our constitutional heritage to privately own and possess firearms...

     jointly filed a lawsuit against the North Central Regional Library District (NCRL) in Washington for its policy of refusing to disable restrictions upon an adult patron's request. Library patrons attempting to access pro-gun web sites were blocked, and the library refused to remove the blocks.


Much ACLU work is done in the political arena where it faces frequent controversy as well.
  • The ACLU has been a vocal opponent of the USA PATRIOT Act
    USA PATRIOT Act
    The USA PATRIOT Act is an Act of the U.S. Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001...

     of 2001, the PATRIOT 2
    Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003
    The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 was draft legislation written by United States Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration, under the tenure of United States Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Center for Public Integrity obtained a copy of the draft marked...

     Act of 2003, and associated legislation made in response to the threat of domestic terrorism. The ACLU believes such legislation violates either the letter or the spirit of the U.S. Bill of Rights
    United States Bill of Rights
    The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

    . In response to a requirement of the USA PATRIOT Act, the ACLU withdrew from the Combined Federal Campaign
    Combined Federal Campaign
    The Combined Federal Campaign is a program allowing certain charitable organizations to solicit contributions from employees of the federal government of the United States...

    . The requirement was that ACLU employees must be checked against a federal anti-terrorism watch list. The ACLU has stated that it would "reject $500,000 in contributions from private individuals rather than submit to a government 'blacklist' policy."

  • The ACLU opposes the use of capital punishment, calling it "the ultimate denial of civil liberties." The ACLU claims that the death penalty is unfairly applied to racial minorities and the poor, and considers it "cruel and unusual" punishment. The organization often opposes executions on the grounds that the present method of lethal injection sometimes goes awry.

  • The ACLU's position on spam
    Spam (electronic)
    Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately...

     is considered controversial by a broad cross-section of political points of view. In 2000, Marvin Johnson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, stated that proposed anti-spam legislation infringed on free speech by denying anonymity and by forcing spam to be labeled as such: "Standardized labeling is compelled speech." He also stated, "It's relatively simple to click and delete." The debate found the ACLU joining with the Direct Marketing Association
    Direct Marketing Association (USA)
    Direct Marketing Association is a trade organization which seeks to advance all channels of direct marketing. DMA was founded in 1917. It is based in the United States, but its members include companies from 48 other countries as well, including half of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as...

     and the Center for Democracy and Technology
    Center for Democracy and Technology
    The Center for Democracy & Technology is a Washington, D.C. based 501 non-profit public-interest group that works to promote an open, innovative and free Internet....

     in criticizing a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives
    United States House of Representatives
    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

     in 2000. As early as 1997 the ACLU had taken a strong position that nearly all spam legislation was improper, although it has supported "opt-out
    Opt-out
    The term opt-out refers to several methods by which individuals can avoid receiving unsolicited product or service information. This ability is usually associated with direct marketing campaigns such as telemarketing, e-mail marketing, or direct mail. A list of those who have opted-out is called a...

    " requirements in some cases. The ACLU opposed the 2003 CAN-SPAM
    CAN-SPAM Act of 2003
    The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 , signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003, establishes the United States' first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission to enforce its provisions...

     act suggesting that it could have a chilling effect on speech in cyberspace.

Notable historical cases



Since its founding, the ACLU has been involved in many cases. A few of the most significant are discussed here.

1920–1960


In 1925, the ACLU persuaded John T. Scopes
John T. Scopes
John Thomas Scopes , was a biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, who was charged on May 5, 1925 for violating Tennessee's Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools...

 to defy Tennessee's anti-evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 law in a court test
Scopes Trial
The Scopes Trial—formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and informally known as the Scopes Monkey Trial—was a landmark American legal case in 1925 in which high school science teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee's Butler Act which made it unlawful to...

. Clarence Darrow
Clarence Darrow
Clarence Seward Darrow was an American lawyer and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, best known for defending teenage thrill killers Leopold and Loeb in their trial for murdering 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks and defending John T...

, a member of the ACLU National Committee, headed Scopes' legal team. The prosecution, led by William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan was an American politician in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. He was a dominant force in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, standing three times as its candidate for President of the United States...

, contended that the Bible should be interpreted literally in teaching creationism
Creationism
Creationism is the religious beliefthat humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being, most often referring to the Abrahamic god. As science developed from the 18th century onwards, various views developed which aimed to reconcile science with the Genesis...

 in school. The ACLU lost the case and Scopes was fined $100. The Tennessee Supreme Court later upheld the law but overturned the conviction on a technicality.
In 1954, the ACLU filed an amicus brief in the case of Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 , was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which...

, which led to the ban on racial segregation in U.S. public schools.

1960–2000


In 1967, the ACLU successfully argued against state bans on interracial marriage
Interracial marriage
Interracial marriage occurs when two people of differing racial groups marry. This is a form of exogamy and can be seen in the broader context of miscegenation .-Legality of interracial marriage:In the Western world certain jurisdictions have had regulations...

, in the case of Loving v. Virginia
Loving v. Virginia
Loving v. Virginia, , was a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v...

.

In 1973, the ACLU was the first major national organization to call for the impeachment
Impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

 of President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

, giving as reasons the Nixon administration's violations of civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

. That same year, the ACLU was involved in the cases of Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade, , was a controversial landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. The Court decided that a right to privacy under the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion,...

and Doe v. Bolton
Doe v. Bolton
Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 , was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court overturning the abortion law of Georgia. The Supreme Court's decision was released on January 22, 1973, the same day as the decision in the better-known case of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S...

, in which the Supreme Court held that the constitutional right of privacy extended to women seeking abortions.

In 1977, the ACLU filed suit
National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie
National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 , was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with freedom of assembly.-Facts of the case:...

 against the Village of Skokie, Illinois
Skokie, Illinois
Skokie is a village in Cook County, Illinois, United States. Its name comes from a Native American word for "fire". A Chicago suburb, for many years Skokie promoted itself as "The World's Largest Village". Its population, per the 2000 census, was 63,348...

, seeking an injunction against the enforcement of three town ordinances outlawing Neo-Nazi parades and demonstrations. Skokie, Illinois at the time had a majority population of Jews, totaling 40,000 of 70,000 citizens. A federal district court struck down the ordinances in a decision eventually affirmed by the Supreme Court. According to David Hamlin, executive director of the Illinois ACLU, "...the Chicago office which chose to provide legal counsel to neo-Nazis who have been planning to march in Skokie, has lost about 25% of its membership and nearly one-third of its budget." 30,000 ACLU members resigned in protest. The financial strain from the controversy lead to layoffs at local chapters. In his February 23, 1978 decision overturning the town ordinances, US District Court Judge Bernard M. Decker described the principle involved in the case as follows: "It is better to allow those who preach racial hatred to expend their venom in rhetoric rather than to be panicked into embarking on the dangerous course of permitting the government to decide what its citizens may say and hear ... The ability of American society to tolerate the advocacy of even hateful doctrines ... is perhaps the best protection we have against the establishment of any Nazi-type regime in this country." The neo-Nazis declined to march in Skokie.

In the 1980s, the ACLU filed suit to challenge the Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 1981 creationism statute, which required the teaching in public schools of the biblical account of creation as a scientific alternative to evolution. The law was declared unconstitutional by a Federal District Court.

In 1982, the ACLU became involved in a case involving the distribution of child pornography
Child pornography
Child pornography refers to images or films and, in some cases, writings depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child...

 (New York v. Ferber
New York v. Ferber
New York v. Ferber, , was a United States Supreme Court decision. The Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment right to free speech did not forbid states from banning the sale of material depicting children engaged in sexual activity....

). In an amicus brief, the ACLU argued that the law in question "has criminalized the dissemination, sale or display of constitutionally protected non-obscene materials which portray juveniles in sexually related roles," while arguing that child pornography deemed obscene
Obscenity
An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

 under the Miller test
Miller test
The Miller test , is the United States Supreme Court's test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.-History and details:The Miller test was developed in the...

 deserved no constitutional protection and could be banned.

In 1997, ruling unanimously in the case of Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union
Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union
Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, , is a United States Supreme Court case, in which all nine Justices of the Court voted to strike down anti-indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act , finding they violated the freedom of speech provisions of the First Amendment. Two Justices...

 the Supreme Court voted down anti-indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act
Communications Decency Act
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was the first notable attempt by the United States Congress to regulate pornographic material on the Internet. In 1997, in the landmark cyberlaw case of Reno v. ACLU, the United States Supreme Court struck the anti-indecency provisions of the Act.The Act was...

 (the CDA), finding they violated the freedom of speech provisions of the First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

. In their decision, the Supreme Court hold that the CDA's "use of the undefined terms 'indecent' and 'patently offensive' will provoke uncertainty among speakers about how the two standards relate to each other and just what they mean."

2000–present


In November 2000, 15 African American residents of Hearne, Texas
Hearne, Texas
Hearne is a city in Robertson County, Texas, United States. The population was 4,690 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Bryan-College Station metropolitan area...

 were indicted on drug charges after being arrested in a series of "drug sweeps". The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit, Kelly v. Paschall, on their behalf, alleging that the arrests were unlawful. The ACLU contended that 15 percent of Hearne's male African American population aged 18 to 34 were arrested based on the "uncorroborated word of a single unreliable confidential informant coerced by police to make cases." On May 11, 2005, the ACLU and Robertson County announced a confidential settlement of the lawsuit, an outcome which "both sides stated that they were satisfied with." The District Attorney dismissed the charges against the plaintiffs of the suit. The 2009 film American Violet
American Violet
American Violet is a 2009 drama directed by Tim Disney and starring Nicole Beharie. The story is based on Regina Kelly, a victim of Texas police drug enforcement tactics.-Plot:...

 depicts this case.

In a 2002 letter, the ACLU stated that it "opposes child pornography that uses real children in its depictions", but that material "which is produced without using real children, and is not otherwise obscene, is protected under the First Amendment".

In March 2004, the ACLU, along with Lambda Legal
Lambda Legal
Lambda Legal is an American civil rights organization that focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender communities as well as people living with HIV/AIDS through impact litigation, education, and public policy work.Lambda's founder William J. Thom, Esq...

 and the National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Lesbian Rights
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national non-profit, public interest law firm that advocates for equitable public policies affecting the LGBT community, provides free legal assistance to LGBT clients and their legal advocates, and conducts community education on LGBT legal issues. It...

, sued the state of California on behalf of 6 same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. That case, Woo v. Lockyer, was eventually consolidated into In re Marriage Cases
In re Marriage Cases
In re Marriage Cases 43 Cal.4th 757 [76 Cal.Rptr.3d 683, 183 P.3d 384], was a California Supreme Court case with the dual holding that "statutes that treat persons differently because of their sexual orientation should be subjected to strict scrutiny" and the existing "California legislative and...

, the California Supreme Court case which led to same-sex marriage being available in that state from June 16, 2008 until Proposition 8
California Proposition 8 (2008)
Proposition 8 was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 state elections...

 was passed on November 4, 2008.

During the 2004 trial regarding allegations of Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh
Rush Hudson Limbaugh III is an American radio talk show host, conservative political commentator, and an opinion leader in American conservatism. He hosts The Rush Limbaugh Show which is aired throughout the U.S. on Premiere Radio Networks and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United...

's drug abuse, the ACLU argued that his privacy should not have been compromised by allowing law enforcement examination of his medical records.

In June 2004, the ACLU received numerous phone calls from angry parents after the Dover Area School District
Dover Area School District
The Dover Area School District is a public school district located in Pennsylvania, United States. It consists of Dover Township, Washington Township and the Borough of Dover in York County. The district operates Dover Area High School, Dover Intermediate School, Dover Elementary School, Leib...

 in Dover, Pennsylvania
Dover, Pennsylvania
Dover is a borough in York County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,007 at the 2010 census.-History:James Joner purchased in 1764 and laid out the town of Dover...

 passed a curriculum change requiring that its high school biology students be read a one-minute statement saying that the theory of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 is not fact and mentioning intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 as an alternative theory. Believing that the school was promoting a religious idea in the classroom and violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

, several Dover parents called the ACLU to discuss a possible lawsuit against the school. The ACLU, along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a group that advocates separation of church and state, a legal doctrine interpreted by AU as being enshrined in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.-Mission:The guiding principle of Americans...

 and Pepper Hamilton, LLP, went on to represent the parents, the plaintiffs, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts testing a public school district policy that required the teaching of intelligent design...

. After a more than 40-day trial, Judge John E. Jones III
John E. Jones III
John Edward Jones III is an American lawyer and jurist from the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. A Republican, Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush as federal judge on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in February 2002 and was unanimously confirmed by...

 ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that intelligent design is not science and permanently forbidding the Dover school system from teaching intelligent design in science classes.

In January 2006, the ACLU filed a lawsuit, ACLU v. NSA
ACLU v. NSA
American Civil Liberties Union et al., v. National Security Agency / Central et al., 493 F.3d 644 , is a case decided July 6, 2007, in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the plaintiffs in the case did not have standing to bring the suit against the NSA, because...

, in a federal district court in Michigan, challenging government spying in the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy
NSA warrantless surveillance controversy
The NSA warrantless surveillance controversy concerns surveillance of persons within the United States during the collection of foreign intelligence by the U.S. National Security Agency as part of the war on terror...

. On August 17, 2006, that court ruled that the warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately. However, the order was stayed pending an appeal. The Bush administration did suspend the program while the appeal was being heard. In February 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court "turned down an appeal from the [ACLU] to let it pursue a lawsuit against the program that began shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks".

The ACLU and other organizations also filed separate lawsuits around the country against telecommunications companies. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in Illinois (Terkel v. AT&T) which was dismissed because of the State Secrets Privilege
State Secrets Privilege
The state secrets privilege is an evidentiary rule created by United States legal precedent. Application of the privilege results in exclusion of evidence from a legal case based solely on affidavits submitted by the government stating that court proceedings might disclose sensitive information...

 and two others in California requesting injunctions against AT&T
AT&T
AT&T Inc. is an American multinational telecommunications corporation headquartered in Whitacre Tower, Dallas, Texas, United States. It is the largest provider of mobile telephony and fixed telephony in the United States, and is also a provider of broadband and subscription television services...

 and Verizon
Verizon Communications
Verizon Communications Inc. is a global broadband and telecommunications company and a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average...

. On August 10, 2006, the lawsuits against the telecommunications companies were transferred to a federal judge in San Francisco.

After the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania
Hazleton, Pennsylvania
Hazleton is a city in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 25,340 at the 2010 census, an increase of 8.6% from the 2000 census count .-Greater Hazleton:...

 passed an ordinance to punish landlords who rented to illegal immigrants and businesses who hired illegal immigrants, the ACLU and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund sued Hazleton, saying the ordinance was unconstitutional. On July 26, 2007, a federal court agreed and struck down the Hazleton ordinance; Hazleton's mayor promised to appeal the decision.

In 2008, the ACLU stated that it would represent defendants arrested in Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan
Flint is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and is located along the Flint River, northwest of Detroit. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the 2010 population to be placed at 102,434, making Flint the seventh largest city in Michigan. It is the county seat of Genesee County which lies in the...

 for disorderly conduct
Disorderly conduct
Disorderly conduct is a criminal charge in most jurisdictions in the United States. Typically, disorderly conduct makes it a crime to be drunk in public, to "disturb the peace", or to loiter in certain areas. Many types of unruly conduct may fit the definition of disorderly conduct, as such...

 when sagging
Sagging (fashion)
Sagging is a manner of wearing trousers below the waist, hanging below the waist area and therefore revealing much of the underwear. Sagging is predominantly a male fashion...

 (wearing pants low enough to show underwear), partly on the basis of unconstitutional racial profiling
Racial profiling
Racial profiling refers to the use of an individual’s race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement...

.

After the City of Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

, Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

, began cracking down on when, where and how homeless persons can solicit donations, the ACLU sued Indianapolis, claiming the city's police unconstitutionally forced homeless persons to produce identification without probable cause.

In January 2010, the American military released the names of 645 detainees held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility
Bagram Theater Internment Facility
The Parwan Detention Facility , also called the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, is a United States-run prison located next to Bagram Airfield in the Parwan Province of Afghanistan.It was formerly known as the Bagram Collection Point...

 in Afghanistan, modifying its long-held position against publicizing such information. This list was prompted by a Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act (United States)
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure...

 lawsuit filed in September 2009 by the ACLU, whose lawyers had also requested detailed information about conditions, rules and regulations.

The ACLU represents a Muslim-American who was detained but never accused of a crime in Al-Kidd v Ashcroft
Al-Kidd v Ashcroft
Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd is a 2011 case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a civil suit filed in federal court challenging the detention of Muslim-Americans in the wake of the September 11 attacks....

, a civil suit against the former Attorney General.

See also


  • American Civil Rights Union
    American Civil Rights Union
    The American Civil Rights Union is a civil liberties organization founded by former Reagan Administration official Robert B. Carleson in 1998. It was founded in response to views that the most prominent civil liberties organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, was too leftward leaning; ACRU...

  • British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
    British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
    The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association or BCCLA is a non-government organization in British Columbia, Canada dedicated to the preservation, maintenance and extension of civil liberties and human rights in Canada....

  • Canadian Civil Liberties Association
    Canadian Civil Liberties Association
    The Canadian Civil Liberties Association or CCLA, is Canada's leading national organization devoted to the defence of civil liberties and constitutional rights, both inside and outside the courts. The organization's work focuses on constitutional litigation, law reform, advocating on civil...

  • Freedom (political)
    Freedom (political)
    Political freedom is a central philosophy in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important features of democratic societies...

  • Liberty (pressure group)
    Liberty (pressure group)
    Liberty is a pressure group based in the United Kingdom. Its formal name is the National Council for Civil Liberties . Founded in 1934 by Ronald Kidd and Sylvia Crowther-Smith , the group campaigns to protect civil liberties and promote human rights...

  • National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee
    National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee
    The National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee was an organization formed in 1951 to "to reestablish the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and The Bill of Rights", and was called the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee until 1968...

  • New York Civil Liberties Union
    New York Civil Liberties Union
    The New York Civil Liberties Union is an civil rights organization in the United States. Founded in 1951 as the New York affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, it is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization with nearly 50,000 members across New York State.NYCLU's stated mission is to...

  • Southern Poverty Law Center
    Southern Poverty Law Center
    The Southern Poverty Law Center is an American nonprofit civil rights organization noted for its legal victories against white supremacist groups; legal representation for victims of hate groups; monitoring of alleged hate groups, militias and extremist organizations; and educational programs that...


External links