The American Civil Liberties Union was once a stalwart, scrappy, absolutist defender of free speech and due process. It took serious heat for its defense* of American Nazi’s right to free expression in 1977.
*There are many accounts of this. You will find some here, here, and here.
That indomitable devotion to the First Amendment prompted me to become a card carrying ACLU member. But I haven’t been a member since ~1985 because the ACLU drifted away from this purity of principle. It continued downhill for many years, but after the 2016 election the corruption rapidly became complete and absolute.
The rotten yolk of this organization may still be called a “union,” but it now diametrically opposes the other three words in its name. Enthralled by the money gushing out of the Diversity/Inclusion/Equity cabal, ensnared by rote identitarianism, and blinded by Trump Derangement Syndrome – the ACLU turned its back on the Constitution.
RIP. Here are comments from two high profile liberal lawyers. Like me, former ACLU supporters:
The ACLU has defended Nazis, the KKK, pornographers and purveyors of hate speech. I was privileged to serve on the national board of the ACLU during its golden age.
Then everything changed. The board decided to “diversify.” This meant that a certain number of women, African Americans, Latinos and gays had to be represented—which, in turn, meant the representatives of these groups were expected to prioritize the parochial interests of the groups they represented over the more general interests of all Americans pertaining to free speech and due process.
Unsurprisingly, the organization stopped prioritizing free speech and due process. Instead, it began to prioritize a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, racial issues and “progressive politics.” This trend began well before the election of President Donald Trump, but it came to a head when he took office. The ACLU turned into a money-making machine by prioritizing the anti-Trump attitudes of its new members over its traditional role as a nonpartisan defender of free speech and due process.
The ACLU is now rolling in money, but it is intellectually bankrupt in its defense of free speech and due process—especially when these core liberties conflict with its money-making progressive agenda. This is particularly true with respect to the attacks on free speech and due process on university campuses, which are rampant and largely ignored by the current ACLU.
For years, many of us who have long supporteded the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have grown alarmed by its abandonment of core principles in the support of civil liberties in favor of support what seems a more political agenda…
Free speech protection was once the touchstone of the ACLU which was fearless in its unpopular advocacy. It is now an area of open retreat for the organization as the leadership seeks to appease irate donors. Despite the right to carry being a constitutional right, the ACLU has indicated that it will not vigorously support the right to lawfully carry weapons at protests. That is no more evident than in the truly shocking filing of the ACLU to oppose due process rights for students at our colleges and universities, particularly in the imposition of a higher and more consistent evidentiary standard…
The group seems increasingly committed to appeasing liberal donors and supporters in avoiding such fights. Now it has actually taken up the cause of reducing due process — a position that disgraces its long and proud legacy… It is now actively trading off civil liberties to achieve beneficial social ends.
We need new civil rights umpires.
NCLA views the administrative state as an especially serious threat to constitutional freedoms. No other development in contemporary American law denies more rights to more Americans. Although Americans still enjoy the shell of their Republic, there has developed within it a very different sort of government—a type, in fact, that the Constitution was designed to prevent. This unconstitutional administrative state within our U.S. government is the focus of NCLA’s concern. NCLA urges Americans to recognize the administrative threat and join our civil liberties movement against it.
Here is a look at litigation NCLA supported: State of Missouri ex rel. Schmitt, et al. v. Biden, et al.
Public statements, emails, and recent publicly released documents establish that the President of the United States and other senior officials in the Biden Administration violated the First Amendment by directing social-media companies to censor viewpoints that conflict with the government’s messaging on Covid-19.
NCLA joined the lawsuit, State of Missouri ex rel. Schmitt, et al. v. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., et al., representing renowned epidemiologists and co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, Drs. Jayanta Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, as well as Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Jill Hines. Social media platforms, acting at the federal government’s behest, repeatedly censored NCLA’s clients for articulating views on those platforms in opposition to government-approved views on Covid-19 restrictions.
This insidious censorship was the direct result of the federal government’s ongoing campaign to silence those who voice perspectives that deviate from those of the Biden Administration. Government officials’ public threats to punish social media companies that did not do their bidding demonstrate this linkage, as do emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to social media companies that only recently were made public.
The Administrative State is nowhere better established than in our Universities, and FIRE started out as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education before recognizing a broader mission. The examples below indicate that FIRE is dedicated to defending the First Amendment. The content of speech is not the issue. Whose Ox is gored is irrelevant. The speakers opinions are sacrosanct, even… especially… if they are unpopular.
A lawsuit filed last week by theater professor Richard Bugg against administrators at Southern Utah University alleges that key school officials violated his First Amendment rights when they punished him for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns.
Bugg is represented by FIRE Faculty Legal Defense Fund network attorney Jerome H. Mooney, with FLDF’s financial support. FLDF offers “first responder” legal assistance to protect the academic freedom and free expression rights of faculty at public colleges and universities, and where appropriate supports litigation when on-campus efforts meet resistance.
Bugg’s lawsuit alleges that when a student in his 2021 fall semester acting class requested Bugg use they/them pronouns when referring to that student, Bugg instead offered to use that student’s given or preferred proper name. Although Bugg attempted not to use female pronouns to refer to the student, he mistakenly did so two to three times, by his own admission. Despite Bugg’s proposed accommodation, the student filed a Title IX complaint against him alleging Bugg would not refer to the student using gender-neutral pronouns.
After a hearing, SUU determined Bugg violated university policy by engaging in “conduct that constitutes ‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment’ based on gender identity.” As punishment, SUU has required Bugg to take a class about the use of gender-neutral pronouns in the English language, and that Bugg use students’ preferred pronouns. SUU also cautioned that if Bugg’s continued refusal to use preferred pronouns causes students to avoid registering for his classes, SUU will open additional sections, and will reduce Bugg’s pay to offset the cost of the additional sections. It also threatened Bugg with possible termination.
Queen Elizabeth’s death yesterday spurred a global outpouring of grief from many of her fans, alongside discussion and debate about the complicated history of England’s monarchy. Much of this debate took place on Twitter, which, for better or worse, serves as a modern public square for commentary about current events.
But critics succeeded in at least partially silencing one such commentator: Carnegie Mellon University professor Uju Anya, who wrote on her personal account hours before the Queen’s death was announced: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating…”
CMU must publicly refuse to investigate or punish the professor
Regardless of public controversy, Anya’s tweets remain protected under First Amendment standards. Private institutions like CMU are not bound by the First Amendment to promise free expression, but, laudably, the university has chosen to do so, committing that it “values the freedoms of speech, thought, expression and assembly — in themselves and as part of our core educational and intellectual mission.” CMU goes so far as to say the “university must be a place where all ideas may be expressed freely and where no alternative is withheld from consideration.”
Now that CMU has promised faculty free expression, it cannot backtrack from “all ideas may be expressed,” to all except this one because people are mad. CMU has not backtracked, but it also has not foreclosed the threat of punishing Anya in its public statement. That’s why FIRE is asking CMU to publicly commit not to investigate or punish Anya for expressing her opinion. As we told CMU:
While some may find the timing or substance of speech about the deceased to be offensive, freedom of expression does not observe a mourning period. It applies whether speech about the recently departed takes the form of a venerating eulogy, scorn, or something in between.
We do need institutions to take up the banner the ACLU has ground into the mud.