The American Civil Liberties Union ACLU Essay

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Essay, Research Paper The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Where do you go if someone is threatening your personal rights? Do you go to the police, or maybe to the government? What if the police and government are the parties threatening your rights? All you have to do is just call the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). Sounds like a commercial doesn’t it. The ACLU blankets the United States with its legal protection. It is involved in so many aspects of the fight for civil liberties that it is difficult to cover it all. To fully understand what the ACLU has done for the United States would take much longer than I have. Therefore, I have picked a couple of incidents that, to me, exemplify what the ACLU is, and how they have

affected our society. The ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, is an organization that began the struggle to protect the civil liberties of the American people. The ACLU is defined as being a US non-partisan organization offering legal aid and other assistance in cases of violation of civil liberties.(Websters) Civil liberties contain a substantial body of law including: freedom of speech and press, separation of church and state, free exercise of religion, due process of law, equal protection, and privacy.(Walker 3) The Encyclopedia of the Constitution defines civil liberties as “those rights that an individual citizens may assert against the government.” In a formal sense, the ACLU is a private voluntary organization dedicated to defending the Bill of Rights. Officially

established in 1920, the ACLU now claims over 270,000 members. With offices in most of the states and the District of Columbia the ACLU justifiably calls itself ” the nation’s largest law firm.”(Walker 4) The ACLU, despite its noble goal, has a terrible public image. The reason for such hatred or support is the fact that civil liberty cases generally involve moral and personal issues. These issues are those that incite feelings from all corners of society. The rights the ACLU is generally protecting are those segments of society that least agree with mainstream society. The ACLU has promised to protect the rights of everyone. Those rights include the free speech rights of such detested groups as the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis, and Communist. The Skokie Case is an example of the

classic freedom of speech case the ACLU would undertake. This case which hit the media April 28, 1977, concerned the right of American Nazi Frank Collin to demonstrate in Skokie, IL. (Walker 323) This case like many before and after defended the rights of a person espousing one of the most universally despised ideology in the country. While the ACLU was just doing its job it almost had to shut down when many withdrew their memberships and support. The ACLU became the taunt of the 1988 Presidential campaign. The race between George Bush and Michael Dukakis brought the ACLU to the forefront of media attention. The ACLU became the stumbling block of the Dukakis’ presidential bid. The Bush campaign asked for ammunition to help chip away at Dukakis early lead. The staff came back

with a quote, for a speech, calling Dukakis a “card carrying member of the ACLU who opposed the death penalty.”(Dionne 311) He was pro-gun control, pro-abortion, and had as the Bush campaign put it, “…vetoed the pledge of allegiance.” Dukakis, in short, was a classic, unrepentant “sixties liberal.”(Dionne 311) This accusation gave Dukakis a liberal reputation in a campaign that was middle of the road leaning toward conservatism. In this case the truth hurt. “In the Bush formulation, belonging to the ACLU meant never balancing an individual claim against a social claim.”(Dionne 314) Unfortunatly the opposites sounds suspiciously like anarchy. The flip side to this is the negative publicity unintentionally helped to increase the membership and strength of the