American Civil Liberties Union



Introduction


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a liberal advocacy organization. The ACLU is perhaps the most prominent sponsor of progressive causes in the American court system. The ACLU argues against private property rights, gun rights, the death penalty (even for the most violent murderers) and religious liberties. The ACLU clogs American courts with a progressive docket and supports affirmative action, abortion, illegal immigration, terrorist rights and GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) rights.


History and Mission

According to its website, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was created to, “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country.”[1] Founded in 1920 by Crystal Eastman, Roger Baldwin, and Walter Nelles, the ACLU is the successor organization to the earlier National Civil Liberties Bureau founded during World War I.

The ACLU consists of two separate non-profit organizations: the ACLU Foundation, an organization that focuses on litigation and communication efforts, and the ACLU, an organization that focuses on legislative lobbying. Its national headquarters is located in New York City. The organization operates through 53 affiliates and chapters, each of which has a staff and board of directors. The affiliates generally correspond with state lines. The ACLU’s network of attorneys and staff work at the forefront of American constitutional law. The ACLU represents its causes in state and federal courts. The ACLU usually files lawsuits at the local level, and local ACLU attorneys handle litigation.


Constitutional Approach

The ACLU is selective as to which individual rights it chooses to defend and preserve. It has been active in cases involving the following amendments:

  • 1st Amendment (Freedom of Speech): In Texas v. Johnson (1989), the ACLU fought to invalidate prohibitions on desecrating the American flag. The ACLU argued that burning an American flag was protected speech under the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court sided with the ACLU.
  • 4th Amendment (Unreasonable Searches and Seizures): In Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the Supreme Court sided with the ACLU in implementing the exclusionary rule. The Court stated that “all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Federal Constitution is inadmissible in a criminal trial in a state court.”[2] Five years later, in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the ACLU fought for a suspect’s right to an attorney and right against self-incrimination. For the first time, police officers were forced to explain to criminal suspects a litany of constitutional protections.
  • 8th Amendment (Cruel and Unusual Punishment): The ACLU opposes the death penalty. In Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008), the ACLU defended second-time child-rape offenders, arguing that under no circumstances can child-rapists be put to death. The Supreme Court – led by the liberal bloc – sided with the ACLU. Justice Samuel Alito, in a dissenting opinion, stated: “It is certainly true that the loss of human life represents unique harm, but that does not explain why other grievous harms are insufficient to permit a death sentence.”[3] Justice Alito continued: “[t]he rape of any victim inflicts great injury, and some victims are so grievously injured physically or psychologically that life is beyond repair.”[4]
In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the individual right to bear arms in District of Columbia v. Heller. Despite this ruling, the ACLU has still asserted that the Second Amendment is “primarily a collective right” to bear arms, not an individual one.[5]

In Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), the ACLU argued that it was unconstitutional for a school to set aside one minute at the start of each day for a moment of silent meditation or voluntary prayer. The Court agreed with the ACLU and the school district was forced to cancel the moment of silence.[6]


Voting Rights / Elections

The ACLU opposes state-level voter integrity measures. According to the ACLU, efforts to ensure secure elections are really “voter suppression laws [that] take many forms, and collectively lead to significant burdens for eligible voters trying to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right.”[7] Eschewing logical or legal arguments, the ACLU has often relied on incendiary rhetoric to attack voter integrity laws. For example, Laura Murphy, chapter leader of the Washington, D.C. ACLU, said in February 2012 that “[t]he ACLU believes requiring voters to obtain a government-issued photo ID in order to vote is tantamount to a poll tax.”[8] Murphy has also compared voter ID laws to “Jim Crow-era laws.”[9]


Battling Voter Integrity Measures in Court


The ACLU is one of the leading opponents of voter integrity measures in the American court system. In 2008, the ACLU appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to strike an Indiana law that required in-person voters to present a valid photo ID. Ken Falk, the ACLU’s legal director for Indiana at the time, said, “[o]nerous voter ID laws like Indiana’s do not prevent fraud — they create excessive burdens on voting rights without any justification whatsoever. It is our hope that the Supreme Court will reject the deceptive voter fraud myth by strongly reaffirming the right to vote in this country.”[10]

The Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the ACLU’s arguments and upheld Indiana’s voter ID law as a commonsense, constitutional measure to combat voter fraud.[11] In that watershed case, Crawford v. Marion, the Court clearly established the right of states to protect their elections from voter fraud by implementing voter ID laws.

In his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that Indiana’s voter ID law was “unquestionably relevant to the State’s interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.” He explained: “evenhanded restrictions that protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself are not invidious.” (Internal citations omitted).[12] The ACLU expressed disappointment with the decision claiming that the “decision minimizes the very real burden that Indiana’s voter ID law places on tens of thousands of eligible voters who lack a government-issued identification.”[13]

Despite its legal defeat, the ACLU has continued challenging state-level voter integrity measures. In 2011, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law.[14] In July 2012, a Dane County judge issued an injunction barring the law from going into effect, however, as of August 2012, that decision was facing an appeal.[15]

In February 2012, the ACLU petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking join a lawsuit that aimed to block a South Carolina voter ID law from taking effect.[16] In March 2012, the judge accepted the ACLU petition, and they officially became a party to the lawsuit.[17]

Also in 2012, the ACLU sued to stop a Pennsylvania voter ID law claiming the law would disfranchise more than a million eligible Pennsylvania voters.[18] Justin Danhof, General Counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research criticized the ACLU’s legal complaint saying, “[t]he ACLU complaint ignores Supreme Court precedent, refers to several absurd ‘victim’ sob stories and is predicated on a refuted report from the highly-partisan Brennan Center. The judge should summarily dismiss the ACLU’s complaint and allow the Commonwealth to protect its citizenry’s sacred right to vote.”[19]

In the News

In response to the Patriot Act, the ACLU led a coalition of civil liberty groups urging local governments across the United States to pass resolutions creating “Civil Liberties Safe Zones.”[20] Civil Liberties Safe Zones listed specific rights not to be suspended under any circumstance and therefore urged constituents not to comply with the provisions of the Patriot Act. Also, the ACLU endorsed the Democrat-sponsored Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004.[21] The Civil Liberties Restoration Act rolled back vital national-security policies adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.[22] The Civil Liberties Restoration Act terminated the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS).[23] The NSEERS allowed the U.S. government to keep track of immigrants on temporary leave.[24]

In 2002, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Justice Department instituted a program requiring males visiting the U.S. from Arab and Muslim nations to register with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The ACLU organized protests against the program.[25] It similarly protested an FBI anti-terrorism initiative to count and document all of America’s mosques.[26]

Through the years, the ACLU has defended numerous persons active in, or affiliated with, terrorist organizations. For example, it wrote a letter to the DOJ asking it to drop charges against Sami Al-Arian, who was connected to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).[27] The ACLU named New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its Advisory Board.[28] In the 1970s, Dohrn was put on the “FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.”[29] Dohrn, along with her husband Bill Ayers, was a 1960s leader of Weather Underground – described by Ayers as “an American Red Army.”[30] In 1972, Weather Underground radicals placed a bomb at Pentagon Station in Washington, DC.[31] Further, it allegedly placed a bomb at a San Francisco police station, killing a police officer.[32]


Funding

According to FrontPage Magazine, "George Soros has given millions of dollars to the ACLU over the years.[33] Additionally, the Ford Foundation gave the ACLU more than $335,000 in 2003."[34] Over the years, the ACLU has received funding from the Open Society Institute,[35] the Annie E. Casey Foundation,[36] the Nathan Cummings Foundation,[37] the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,[38] the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,[39] the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation,[40] the David and Lucile Packard Foundation,[41] the Scherman Foundation,[42] the JEHT Foundation,[43] the Lear Family Foundation,[44] and the Rockefeller Foundation.[45]

In 2009, the ACLU had $32,597,383 in total revenues.[46]


Leadership (as of August 2012)

Susan N. Herman, President
Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director (2010 Compensation: $369,220)
Dorothy M. Ehrlich, Deputy Executive Director (2010 Compensation: $345,795)
Emily Tynes, Communications Director (2010 Compensation: $306,643)
Laura Murphy, Director of the Washington Legislative Office (2010 Compensation: $284,017)
Geri E. Rozanski, Director of Affiliate Support (2010 Compensation: $291,181)
Steven Shapiro, Legal Director (2010 Compensation: $333,044)

Contact Information

American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
Telephone: (212) 549-2500
URL: www.aclu.org

National Media:
125 Broad Street
New York, NY 10004
Telephone: (212) 549-2666
Email: media@aclu.org

Legislative Media:
915 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Telephone: (202) 675-2312
Email: media@dcaclu.org



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  1. ^
    “About Us,” American Civil Liberties Union, available at http://www.aclu.org/about-aclu-0 as of August 2, 2011.
  2. ^ Justice Thomas Clark, Mapp v. Ohio, United States Supreme Court, June 19, 1961, available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0367_0643_ZO.html as of August 2, 2011.
  3. ^ Justice Samuel Alito, Patrick Kennedy v. Louisiana, United States Supreme Court, October 1, 2008, available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-343.ZO.html as of August 2, 2011.
  4. ^ Justice Samuel Alito, Patrick Kennedy v. Louisiana, United States Supreme Court, October 1, 2008, available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-343.ZO.html as of August 2, 2011.
  5. ^
    “American Civil Liberties Union,” Sourcewatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=American_Civil_Liberties_Union as of June 2, 2011.
  6. ^
    Cornell Law, “United States Supreme Court,” Wallace v. Jaffree, available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0472_0038_ZS.html as of August 2, 2011.
  7. ^
    “Voter Suppression in America,” American Civil Liberties Union, available at http://www.aclu.org/voter-suppression-america as of August 6, 2012.
  8. ^ Lauren Fox, “ACLU Leader Says Voter ID Law Akin to Jim Crow-Era Law,” U.S. News and World Reports – Washington Whispers, February 23, 2012, available at http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/02/23/aclu-leader-says-voter-id-law-akin-to-jim-crow-era-law as of August 7, 2012.
  9. ^ Lauren Fox, “ACLU Leader Says Voter ID Law Akin to Jim Crow-Era Law,” U.S. News and World Reports – Washington Whispers, February 23, 2012, available at http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/02/23/aclu-leader-says-voter-id-law-akin-to-jim-crow-era-law as of August 7, 2012.
  10. ^
    “Supreme Court Hears ACLU’s Landmark Voter ID Case,” American Civil Liberties Union – Press Release, January 9, 2008, available at http://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/supreme-court-hears-aclus-landmark-voter-id-case as of August 6, 2012.
  11. ^
    Crawford v. Marion Country Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008) available at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-21.pdf as of August 6, 2012.
  12. ^
    Crawford v. Marion Country Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008) available at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-21.pdf as of August 6, 2012.
  13. ^ “ACLU Disappointed With Supreme Court’s Voter ID Decision,” American Civil Liberties Union – Press Release, April 28, 2008, available at http://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/aclu-disappointed-supreme-courts-voter-id-decision as of August 6, 2012.
  14. ^

    “ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Wisconsin’s Unconstitutional Voter ID Law,” American Civil Liberties Union – Press Release,” December 13, 2011, available at http://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/aclu-files-lawsuit-challenging-wisconsins-unconstitutional-voter-id-law as of August 6, 2012.
  15. ^ Alison Bauter, “Van Hollen to Appeal Voter ID Ruling,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 18, 2012, available at http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/van-hollen-to-appeal-voter-id-ruling-v166203-162942176.html as of August 6, 2012.
  16. ^
    “ACLU Steps in to Block South Carolina’s Discriminatory Voter ID Law,” American Civil Liberties Union – Press Release, February 24, 2012, available at http://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/aclu-steps-block-south-carolinas-discriminatory-voter-id-law as of August 7, 2012.
  17. ^ “Judges Allow ACLU in on SC Voter ID Suit,” Aiken Standard, March 23, 2012, available at http://www.aikenstandard.com/story/m1075-BC-SC-VoterID-SouthCaro-03-22-0424 as of August 7, 2012.
  18. ^
    Sara Mullen, “Pennsylvania’s Voter ID by the Numbers,” American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, July 28, 2012, available at http://www.aclu.org/blog/voting-rights/pennsylvanias-voter-id-numbers as of August 7, 2012.
  19. ^ “American Civil Liberties Union Relies on Flawed and Biased Report in Lawsuit Challenging Pennsylvania’s New Voter ID Law,” National Center for Public Policy Research – Press Release, July 27, 2012, available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/PR-PA_Voter_ID_072712.html as of August 8, 2012.
  20. ^
    “Sarasota Becomes Latest ‘Civil Liberties Safe Zone,’” American Civil Liberties Union, October 20, 2003, available at http://www.aclu.org/national-security/sarasota-becomes-latest-civil-liberties-safe-zone-joins-communities-nationwide-opp As of August 2, 2011.
  21. ^ Connie Y. Chung, “Civil Liberties Restoration Act,” American Civil Liberties Union - Press Release, June 16, 2004, available at http://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-applauds-introduction-civil-liberties-restoration-act-measure-restores-freedo as of August 2, 2011.
  22. ^ 108th U.S. Congress, “Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004,” govtrack.us, June 16, 2004, available at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h108-4591 as of August 2, 2011.
  23. ^ Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, “Congressional Research Service Summary,” govtrack.us, available at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h108-4591&tab=summary as of August 2, 2011.
  24. ^ Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, “Congressional Research Service Summary,” govtrack.us, available at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h108-4591&tab=summary as of August 2, 2011.
  25. ^
    “ACLU Calls Immigration Registration Program Pretext for Mass Detentions,” American Civil LIberties Union - Press Release, December 19, 2002, available at http://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-calls-immigrant-registration-program-pretext-mass-detentions as of August 2, 2011.
  26. ^ “ACLU Calls FBI Mosque-Counting Scheme Blatant Ethnic and Religious Profiling,” American Civil LIberties Union - Press Release, January 27, 2003, available at http://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-calls-fbi-mosque-counting-scheme-blatant-ethnic-and-religious-profiling as of August 2, 2011.
  27. ^
    “ACLU of Florida Urges Government Prosecutors to Dismiss Remaining Charges Against Sami Al-Arian,” American Civil LIberties Union - Press Release, January 23, 2006, available at http://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/aclu-florida-urges-government-prosecutors-dismiss-remaining-charges-against-sami-a as of August 2, 2011.
  28. ^ “ACLU,” Discover the Networks, available at http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=6145 as of June 11, 2010.
  29. ^ The Weather Undergound, “Washington DC: US Government Printing Office,” American Libraries, 1975, available at http://www.archive.org/details/statedepartmentb00unit as of August 2, 2011.
  30. ^ “ACLU,” Discover the Newtorks, available at http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=6145 as of August 2, 2011.
  31. ^ “Fact Check: Dems and the Weather Underground,” USA Today, available at http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-04-17-fact-check-weather-underground_N.htm as of August 3, 2011.
  32. ^ Peter Jamison, “Time Bomb,” San Francisco Weekly, September 16, 2009, available at http://www.sfweekly.com/2009-09-16/news/time-bomb/ as of August 3, 2011.
  33. ^
    Ben Johnson, “Charitable Foundations: ATMs For the Left,” Front Page Magazine, March 2, 2004, available at http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=13940 as of August 3, 2011.
  34. ^ Ben Johnson, “Charitable Foundations: ATMs For the Left,” Front Page Magazine, March 2, 2004, available at http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=13940 as of August 3, 2011.
  35. ^ “Open Society Institute IRS 990 2008,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/13-7029285/open-society-institute.aspx# (registration required) as of August 3, 2011.
  36. ^ “Annie E. Casey Foundation IRS 990 2008,” Guidestar, available at http://www.guidestar.org/pqShowGsReport.do?partner=iwave&grantType=funder&npoId=157254&gotoNext=/reports/partners/iwave/showFunders.jsp (registration required) on June 15, 2010.
  37. ^ “Nathan Cummings Foundation IRS 990 2007,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/23-7093201/nathan-cummings-fdn.aspx# (registration required) as of June 14, 2010.
  38. ^ “William and Flora Hewlett Foundation IRS 990 2008,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/94-1655673/william-flora-hewlett-foundation.aspx# (registration required) as of June 14, 2010.
  39. ^ “John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation IRS 990 2008,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/23-7093598/john-d-catherine-t-macarthur-foundation.aspx# (registration required) as of June 14, 2010.
  40. ^ “Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation IRS 990 2008,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/13-5600408/jessie-smith-noyes-foundation.aspx# (registration required) as of June 15, 2010.
  41. ^ “David and Lucile Packard Foundation IRS 990 2008,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/94-2278431/david-lucile-packard-foundation.aspx# (registration required) as of June 15, 2010.
  42. ^ “Scherman Foundation IRS 990 2007,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/13-6098464/scherman-foundation.aspx# (registration required) as of June 14, 2010.
  43. ^ “JEHT Foundation IRS 990 2007,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/13-7232160/jeht-foundation-tr.aspx# (registration required) as of June 14, 2010.
  44. ^ “Lear Family Foundation IRS 990 2007,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/95-4661216/lear-family-foundation.aspx# (registration required) as of June 14, 2010.
  45. ^ “Rockefeller Foundation IRS 990 2006,” Guidestar, available at http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/13-1659629/rockefeller-foundation.aspx# (registration required) as of June 15, 2010.
  46. ^
    Revenue information downloaded from guidestar.org on October 17, 2011.