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An introduction to the aclu american civil liberties union

Overview of the American Civil Liberties Union The American Civil Liberties Union is the nation's foremost advocate of individual rights -- litigating, legislating, and educating the public on a broad array of issues affecting individual freedom in the United States.

This is a general introduction and history to the ACLU, the first in a series of briefing papers. Other briefing papers, produced by the ACLU Office of Public Education, explain the organization's position on a range of specific civil liberties issues. The American system of government is built on two basic, counterbalancing principles: In every era of American history, the government has tried to expand its authority at the expense of individual rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union exists to make sure that doesn't happen, and to fight back when it does. It does not handle criminal cases or civil disputes or choose sides according to financial criteria.

Nor do we take political sides; we are neither liberal nor conservative, Republican nor Democratic. The ACLU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 275,000-member public interest organization devoted exclusively to protecting the basic civil liberties of all Americans, and extending them to groups that have traditionally been denied them.

In its almost seven decades in existence, the ACLU has become a national institution, and is widely recognized as the country's foremost advocate of individual rights. The Constitution itself, whose bicentennial we celebrated in 1987, authorizes the government to act. The Bill of Rights limits that authority.

  • Resurgence of the Radical Right Though the end of the Reagan-Bush era brought improved prospects for civil liberties at the federal level, numerous right-wing extremists saw opportunities for local organizing;
  • Filer, former chairman, Aetna Life and Casualty 1973;
  • These include freedom of speech, association and assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, including the strict separation between church and state;
  • Attorney General Palmer was conducting raids upon aliens suspected of holding unorthodox opinions;
  • On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the statute but reversed the conviction.

What rights are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights? These include freedom of speech, association and assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, including the strict separation between church and state.

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Equal protection of the law: The right to equal treatment regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, age, physical handicap, or other such classification. These rights apply to the voting booth, the classroom, the workplace and the courts.

Due process of law: The right to be treated fairly when facing criminal charges or other serious accusations that can result in such penalties as loss of employment, exclusion from school, denial of housing, or cut-off of benefits.

The right to privacy: The right to a guaranteed zone of personal privacy and autonomy which cannot be penetrated by the government or by other institutions, like employers, with substantial influence over an individual's rights. Although some segments of our population have traditionally been denied these rights, the ACLU works to extend protection to racial minorities, homosexuals, mental patients, prisoners, soldiers, children in the custody of the state, the handicapped, and Native Americans.

Citizens were sitting in jail for holding antiwar views. Attorney General Palmer was conducting raids upon aliens suspected of holding unorthodox opinions. Racial segregation was the law of the land and violence against blacks was routine.

Sex discrimination was firmly institutionalized; it wasn't until 1920 that women even got the vote.

Constitutional rights for homosexuals, the poor, prisoners, mental patients, and other special groups were literally unthinkable. The ACLU remembers and it acts. The cause it serves so well is an imperative of freedom.

The Palmer Raids In its first year the ACLU worked at combating the deportation of aliens for their radical beliefs ordered by Attorney General Palmeropposing attacks on the rights of the Industrial Workers of the World and trade unions to hold meetings and organize, and securing release from prison for the hundreds sentenced during the war for expression of antiwar opinions. Scopes, a young science teacher, as a plaintiff.

On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the statute but reversed the conviction. The ACLU took Hague to the Supreme Court, which ruled that public places such as streets and parks belong to the people, not the mayor. Japanese Americans Two and half months after Pearl Harbor, 110,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were citizens, were evacuated from their West Coast homes and relocated in a series of inland U.

  • Although some segments of our population have traditionally been denied these rights, the ACLU works to extend protection to racial minorities, homosexuals, mental patients, prisoners, soldiers, children in the custody of the state, the handicapped, and Native Americans;
  • Nor do we take political sides; we are neither liberal nor conservative, Republican nor Democratic;
  • It does not handle criminal cases or civil disputes or choose sides according to financial criteria.

Loyalty Oaths During the Cold War era after World War II, Congress and many state legislatures passed loyalty-oath laws requiring one group or another, particularly public school teachers, to swear that they were not Communists or members of any "subversive organizations.

School Desegregation On May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court issued its historic decision that segregation in public schools violates the 14th Amendment. Civil Rights Movement From the first lunch counter sit-in in 1960 through the freedom rides and later mass marches, the ACLU supported the civil rights movement's goal of equality and its means of achieving that goal through peaceful demonstrations.

Filer, former chairman, Aetna Life and Casualty 1973: The Union listed six grounds for impeachment affecting civil liberties -- specific, proved violations of the right of political dissent; usurpation of Congressional war-making powers; establishment of a personal secret police that committed crimes; attempted interference in the trial of Daniel Ellsberg; distortion of the system of justice; and perversion of other federal agencies.

Abortion Decriminalized In Roe v. Wade and Doe v.

  • The Union listed six grounds for impeachment affecting civil liberties -- specific, proved violations of the right of political dissent; usurpation of Congressional war-making powers; establishment of a personal secret police that committed crimes; attempted interference in the trial of Daniel Ellsberg; distortion of the system of justice; and perversion of other federal agencies;
  • Loyalty Oaths During the Cold War era after World War II, Congress and many state legislatures passed loyalty-oath laws requiring one group or another, particularly public school teachers, to swear that they were not Communists or members of any "subversive organizations;
  • School Desegregation On May 17, 1954, in Brown v;
  • The ACLU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 275,000-member public interest organization devoted exclusively to protecting the basic civil liberties of all Americans, and extending them to groups that have traditionally been denied them.

Bolton, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses a pregnant woman's decision whether to bear a child or have an abortion.

The ruling struck down state laws that had made the performance of an abortion a criminal act. The ACLU was and remains active in the courts to protect that right. The statute, which fundamentalists saw as a model for other stateswas ruled unconstitutional by U. District Judge William R.

Government asks ACLU to find missing migrant parents

Creation-science, he said, was not science but religion, and could not constitutionally be required by state law. Bork, the ACLU said, posed an extraordinary threat to fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and to the role of the Supreme Court as the guardian of those rights. A majority of Senators agreed and rejected his nomination.

Fall-out From Attacks Months after the ACLU had been attacked by George Bush during the presidential election campaign, 50,000 new members signed up in a surge of support for the organization.

Resurgence of the Radical Right Though the end of the Reagan-Bush era brought improved prospects for civil liberties at the federal level, numerous right-wing extremists saw opportunities for local organizing. The ACLU opposed the agenda of school boards dominated by extremists and challenged anti-choice anti-gay ballot initiatives.

Advanced technologies presage new systems that an introduction to the aclu american civil liberties union the capacity to either diminish or expand rights. Meanwhile, our society's most intractable problems remain age-old ones: The ACLU's mission remains realizing the promise of the Bill of Rights for all and expanding the reach of its guarantees to new areas. And historically, the people whose opinions are the most controversial or extreme are those whose rights are most often threatened.

Believing that once the government is empowered to violate one person's rights it can use that power against everyone, the ACLU works to stop the erosion of civil liberties before its too late. The ACLU cannot take on every worthy case. Instead, our lawyers select cases that will have the greatest impact, cases that will have the potential to break new ground and to establish new precedents that will strengthen the freedoms we all enjoy.

Work is coordinated by a national office in New York, aided by a legislative office in Washington that lobbies Congress. The ACLU has more than a dozen national projects devoted to specific civil liberties issues: AIDS, arts censorship, capital punishment, children's rights, education reform, lesbian and gay rights, immigrants' rights, national security, privacy and technology, prisoners' rights, reproductive freedom, voting rights, women's rights and workplace rights.

The ACLU has more than 60 staff attorneys, who collaborate with at least 2,000 volunteer attorneys in handling close to 6,000 cases annually -- making the Union the largest public interest law firm in the nation.

Supreme Court more than any other organization except the U.

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The affiliate boards, in turn, are elected by all ACLU members within the state. On a day-to-basis, each affiliate is autonomous and makes its own decisions about which cases to take and which issues to emphasize. They collaborate with the national office in pursuit of common goals. The ACLU does not receive any government funding. If you believe your civil liberties have been violated, contact the local ACLU office listed in your telephone directory.