Saturday, October 9, 2010

What's Happening At The ACLU

I've been a member of the ACLU for over half my life. As there seems to be some confusion about the role of the ACLU in today's politics (the short version: there is none; it is not a political advocacy group), I thought I'd post a list of several actions and court cases that caught my attention:

President Does Not Have Unreviewable Authority To Execute Americans Without Charge Or Trial, Say CCR and ACLU — As most of you know all too well, Obama has claimed an executive authority that even GeeDubya Bush didn't arrogate to himself: the power to target American citizens for assassination in circumstances far from actual war against the United States, and, just as importantly, without due process of any sort. Needless to say, the Constitution grants no such authority; Obama... who has actually designated individuals as targets... is behaving like a two-bit tinpot dictator in claiming this authority. Follow this legal struggle to reclaim constitutional rights at the ACLU site.

ACLU Lawsuit Charges That Jail Policy Banning Books And Magazines Is Unconstitutional — But a jail in South Carolina has implemented exactly such a policy, banning all books (except for the Bible) and magazines... including books and periodicals about legal self-help... sent to prisoners. There's no First Amendment unless someone enforces it, and that's what the ACLU has as one of its primary missions.

Surveillance Court Should Operate More Transparently And Release Key Legal Rulings, Says ACLU — I find myself humming the tune of an old song, "Once... I had a secret law..." Actually, the original word was not "law" but "love," but think about it: how can you obey a law if you're not permitted to know exactly what it is, in particular, how the courts (in this case, FISC) have interpreted it? This is about as far from American legal doctrine as it gets; let's hope the ACLU has some influence.

ACLU And Brennan Center Reports Expose Resurgence Of Debtors' Prisons — It sounds like something out of 19th-century literature, doesn't it? But debtors' prisons are active in a number of states, incarcerating people too poor to pay their fines. How self-defeating is that? But it's being done, and the ACLU is opposing it.

ACLU Staff Sends Hopeful Video Message To Bullied LGBT Youth — After many reports of suicides by LGBT youth in response to bullying by classmates or coworkers, several organizations including the ACLU (where a number of top leaders and staffers are themselves gay, and know firsthand what an LGBT individual faces... see mandt's post for videos by other individuals and organizations) have embarked on an effort to reassure despondent young gay people that there is, indeed, hope, that life is worth living, that circumstances for gay people in America are improving (if altogether too slowly).

So you can see what the ACLU does for us: it protects the least among us from the most powerful; it does its best to see to it that we live by our own rules of tolerance, civil rights and civil liberties. That's why I am a member. When I joined over 30 years ago, there were not nearly as many organizations doing these essential tasks; now there are quite a few. I do hope you will choose one of them (possibly the ACLU) and give them your support. The Constitution is nothing without our active efforts to implement it properly.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link Steve---anything to stop the desperate,frightening, sad, tragic course of these kids.



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