God in the Classroom, Courtesy of the ACLU


The ACLU's work on church-state separation sometimes gets them pegged as shock troops for secularism, but as this case shows, they're equally happy to step to the plate to fight the squelching of religious speech by overzealous school officials. (Via How Appealing)

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  1. Equally happy?

    Yeah, they made sure the Nazi’s could march in Skokie once too.

    I’m sorry Julian, but to imagine that the ACLU is in any way even handed about parceling out representation for issues surrounding religious speech occurring in government schools is na?ve, particularly for a guy as bright as you are.

  2. twc, I must have a very vivid imagination also. Care to substantiate your point?

  3. The ACLU protects freedom. People who hate the ACLU either hate their freedoms or can’t understand that simple point.

  4. What was wrong with letting Nazis march in Skokie?

  5. If you mean that the ACLU has handled more cases that involve preventing state sponsorship or endorsement of religion in schools than preventing school squelching of religious speech, I’m sure that’s right. But I can think of many reasons that’d be likely to be the case–among them that there are specifically religious groups equally likely to get involved on that side.

  6. I like the ACLU. I don’t agree with them on everything, but they do a lot of good. Even when I disagree with them they often (but admittedly not always) raise good points to think about. They’re a valuable perspective to have.

    Besides, they’re a left-leaning group that frequently couches its positions in terms of freedom, and hence they are a valuable tool for educating leftists.

    See, I just made a point that could be taken as condescending toward leftists!

  7. Do you like the NRA too Thoreau?

  8. I have to admit that I’m indifferent toward the NRA because guns aren’t a high priority issue for me. I agree with the NRA, I just don’t have a strong opinion about them because I don’t have a strong opinion about their issues.

    Mind you, not having a strong opinion about their issues doesn’t mean I support gun control. It’s just that most people care more about some issues than others, and guns just happen to be an issue where I have a libertarian opinion but I don’t place high priority on it. Sort of like how some libertarians might place a low priority on drug legalization, or whatever issue.

  9. And a “witty” urban liberal yuppie like you wouldn’t want to be associated with those provincial redneck types or anything right? Despite the fact that the NRA has been railing as hard against one of the worst 1st Amendment violations as anyone out there, just keep being “indifferent”.

  10. I never thought about it before, but I’m a member of both the NRA and the ACLU. Does that make me some kind of freak?

  11. I think it makes you consistent, grizzly, so, yeah, a freak too.

  12. Actually, Geotech, it has nothing to do with urban snobbery. I have a finite budget, so I only join interest groups that lobby on the issues I feel most strongly about, or professional societies that are important to my career. Hence I’m not a dues-paying member of the NRA.

    But if you want to graft a stereotype onto me, it’s no skin off my back.

  13. Georgia is freaked out over the ACLU, but I can see both sides. The great majority of these rednecks want a little religion in their public places and it don’t bother me much. The NRA it THE #1 protector of the first ammendment, to the point of possibly calling for a constitutional convention on campaign finance reform.

  14. Les, the point was not that the Nazi’s marched in Skokie, it was that the whole thing came off as a publicity stunt–see America, we have a big tent and all oppressed people are welcome here at the ACLU, even those dastardly Nazi creeps that want to give old Jews heart failure by marching through their neighborhood.

    Shady, the ACLU sometimes protects freedom, unless it involves property rights or due process in tax cases.

    Julian, that was my point, thanks for your comments.

    I also happen to be one of those folks who interpret the 1st amendment quite literally–I don’t make exceptions for religious speech that happens to take place in a government school.

    But like most of the policies that we argue about in America, the root problem has nothing to do with the nuances of the establishment clause, it has to do with compulsory education by the state in government owned schools. Rid us of that snake and the whole religious speech argument becomes mostly moot.

    Throw in a regard for property rights and the rest of the problem resolves itself.

    I’ll grant you that ACLU sometimes does okay, but not always. Liberty Mag did a good/bad piece on that back in the old days when Jesse Walker still worked there. The conclusion was that on balance, ACLU did more good than harm (sorry don’t have a link). However, I’ll take Institute for Justice over ACLU, they have a sterling record.

  15. Geotech said: “And a “witty” urban liberal yuppie like you wouldn’t want to be associated with those provincial redneck types or anything right?”

    Jeezus, that seems a little harsh. Is a person required to actively support every group defending some part of the Constitution with equal energy. Does the fact that he’s more motivated by the issues ACLU deals with than the issues NRA deals with automatically make him a snob?
    For what it’s worth, I’m probably pretty similar to thoreau in my thoughts about ACLU and NRA (maybe a little more big on NRA than he is). But I also like domestic beer and country music, and my regular wardrobe consists almost entirely of old t-shirts. But then again, I’m also one of those pointy-headed academics. What’s a person who makes snap judgments based on worn-out stereotypes to do?

  16. grizzly

    I too am a member of both the NRA and the ACLU. In addition to giving people fits it gets me on a strange variety of mailing lists.


    “…the root problem has nothing to do with the nuances of the establishment clause, it has to do with compulsory education…”

    You are right on target.

    Another problem is that school officials and teachers are just plain stupid. I recall a case twenty or so years ago when a teacher in a local school stopped a second grader from handing out religious themed Xmas cards to her classmates, citing the 1st amndmnt.

  17. thoreau,

    I’m a lot bigger fan of the NRA since Kerry complained yesterday about their calling federal agents jackbooted thugs.

    And contrary to Kerry’s disingenuousness, the right to keep and bear arms wasn’t intended mainly to protect duck hunters. It was intended to protect the people from the government–you know, those jackbooted thugs….

  18. I look forward to the day when the ACLU is as irrelevant to civil rights as the NAACP is to (black) civil rights.

  19. Following critic, I think I’d care more about the NRA if I felt people owning guns would actually protect them from federal agents.

  20. It seems the ALCU is being pretty consistent in this case. If the principal decided to put the religous slogan on the cover of the yearbook, then the ALCU would have fought that because it it reeks of state sponsored religion. In this case, it was individual sponsored religion which the ALCU supports.

  21. grizzly,

    I am also a member of both; and I’m a member of Amnesty International; and a member of The Nature Conservancy. I also volunteer time to my local Land Trust, and I sponsor two children overseas. I’m what Sen. Inhofe called a “do-gooder.” I do love how Sen. McCain upbraided and shame him though. 🙂

    BTW, NRA is also not all peaches either; some of the rhetoric members or groups associated with it spew is downright nauseating.

  22. geotech,

    I love to duck hunt, drink German wines, listen to Strauss, Sting and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and read Moliere, Dickens and Joyce. Does that make me an “urban elite?” 🙂

    BTW, this urban elite recommends that you go see the Eroica Trio sometime; wonderful stuff.

  23. Gary,
    Let me get this straight, you hunt and like all that artsy fartsy stuff. Now how am I going to fan the culture war flames with that?

  24. Principles of individual freedom are really quite simple to comprehend for the honest individual without an axe to grind. A little study and commitment are required.

    How the ACLU consistently gets it wrong, when they aren’t getting it right, is a study in itself.

    I await their next cause. Will it be supporting a smoker on his own property or the “rights” of the nonsmoker who works for said smoker?

  25. geotech: I’m like thoreau. If anyone asks me, I stand in favor of the right to own arms, but it just is not an issue that inflames me. I’m far, far more concerened with the war on (people who use some) drugs, and also contractions of free speech. I mean, I’m with you and all, but see much more harm coming from other directions.


  26. Mark Anderson,

    One of the friends I duck hunt with is gay; does that help? 🙂

  27. crimethink: They didn’t put it quite the way I did. The book simply didn’t mention certain amendments, and said that some other amendments had come to be considered part of the Bill of Rights. By coincidence or otherwise, the total number of amendments the book considered part of the Bill of Rights totalled ten, but they weren’t consecutively numbered 1-10.

    Unfortunately, I can’t remember any more what the book was, but it definitely stated it was presenting the ACLU’s views.

  28. I’m a bit like Thoreau. I support full rights of gun ownership, but don’t do any active work to ‘protect’ that right, since I can’t figure out a reason why I would want to own one.

  29. Mona:

    Frankly I find people who are “in favor” but apathetic about RKBA to be repulsing (sorry to be so blunt, but I’ll explain why).

    Our right to bear arms is the very root of our freedom. I mean, what is it that is so abhorant about the war on drugs? It’s the use of force against non-violent citizens, right? Well the RKBA is the very tool with which we as mere “subjects” of the state can stop others from using force against us.

    Now granted there isn’t likely to be some great uprising against the Feds to make them stop trampling everyday citizens, but the usefulness of a firearm doesn’t stop there. Firearms give almost everybody the ability to defend themselves against the absolut most egregious offences against their person. Be it street thugs, murderers, rapists, robbers, looters, or disgruntled neighbors with shovels, the right to bear arms gives all of us a chance to defend ourselves and our families.

    Without that, everything else is moot. Who really cares if you can smoke a doobie while watering your lawn if you end up getting killed by a home invader? It’s just priorities really. The same reason I’d consider someone insane if they put more importance on buying new rims for their hotrod than getting enough food to keep from starving (except in that case they’d only be harming themselves, and not everybody in America).

    ** rant mode off **

  30. Andrew Lynch,

    No, he’s none of those things, but his partner is a damn fine cook. My wife and I consider their house our favorite restaurant. 🙂

  31. Frankly I find people who are “in favor” but apathetic about RKBA to be repulsing

    Well, I understand why you consider the 2nd amendment so important. But if every person with libertarian inclinations were repulsed by anybody with a different set of priorities then we’ll all wind up hating each other rather than working together.

    Some people will say that gun rights are important but taxation is more important because nothing is more important than the right to keep the fruits of your labor.

    Some people will say that gun rights are important, but free speech and other political freedoms are more important because those are our ultimate levers over the government. Yes, yes, I know, some would say that the 2nd amendment is also one of our levers over the gov’t.

    Some people will say that gun rights are important, but property rights are even more important for reasons analagous to the tax purpose given earlier.

    Some will say that gun rights are important, but drug legalization is even more attractive to them because (1) it’s about the right to control your own body and (2) the drug war is such an insane and multi-tentacled beast that reaches into so many aspects of society, touching on issues of crime, taxes (via runaway spending), civil liberties, etc.

    Some will say that gun rights are important, but the broader war on terror is more important because ultimately it’s an effort to protect all of our freedoms (including gun rights) from a deadly enemy.

    Anyway, we libertarians have 2 choices:
    1) We can denounce anybody who doesn’t share our particular set of priorities, insisting that our set of priorities get to the heart of what freedom means. We can be smugly confident that we are the only people in the world who truly care about freedom.
    2) We can accept that lots of people have lots of priorities, and not get bent out of shape if some people have different priorities.

    Personally, I’d say that any person who cares about freedom would do well to accept that people may not always use their freedom to pursue the same priorities.

  32. Interesting case…

    The ACLU has been working with conservatives in some other cases within the past few years, such as with regard to the encroachment on privacy and individual liberties by government expansion and “anti-terror” legislation. This occurred both during the Clinton/Reno and Bush/Ashcroft administrations. Not too long ago, former GOP Congressmen Bob Barr and Dick Armey actually became consultants for the ACLU. More recently, the ACLU sided with Rush Limbaugh on a particular issue.

    Wars, terror attacks, crises situations – Not only are these terrible things, but they also seem to make strange bedfellows.

  33. Um, did I mentally glitch filling out the form? I posted that last one, crimethink didn’t. The link to my web page is correct. Apologies.

  34. The conclusion was that on balance, ACLU did more good than harm

    Considering the amount of criminal gun violence in this country, the same could be said about the 2nd Amendment. Some happen to be saying it louder than reality suggests it is.

    With that, I also am a NRA member, ACLU member, Nature Conservancy member, and more importantly, I fully support and donate to NORML.

    I have come to realize a couple of things, (1)Every issue has its unintended consequences, and (2)ON one issue, I can be a brother with anyone, and on another, be complete enemies.

    So, I am completely pissed off with this polarized country right now. We seem to be at a point where disagreances border on violence. I am with the Netherlands, can’t we just agree to disagree and get on with our lives in peace?

  35. A few days ago, I got mail on the same day from the Second Amendment Foundation and the ACLU. I was pleased and amused.

    Nevertheless, I still haven’t forgotten the ACLU’s energetic campaign to force Walter Polovchak to go back to Russia. Nor do I consider their support for race quotas excusable.

    I support the Institute for Justice, which has all the good points of the ACLU (except for sheer clout) without the bad ones.

  36. It may be moot for me, since I don’t currently have any spare cash to contribute to any of these fine organizations, but thoreau makes a damn good point. It is impossible to support all good causes equally, outside of just thinking good thoughts for them. A person has to pick his spots. The freedom we seek is marked by distributed decision-making, so that no one has to be an expert at everything, but we all get to enjoy the results of the accumulated enthusiasms of the aggregate of all that individual effort.

    The ACLU makes some bad decisions, but any libertarian can make common cause with them, at least on an ad hoc basis, to support the good that they do. They aren’t the only screw-ups around. The Nature Conservancy in my state has gotten into the annoying habit of donating habitat that they buy to the state government. In that respect, they are no more pro-liberty than the fundraising arm of the state university.

    Non-gun-owners can support the NRA, or 2nd Amendment Foundation, or even Gun Owners of America. Just because they currently don’t choose to join the ranks of the armed, doesn’t mean they can’t still cherish the freedom to decide that for themselves, and appreciate the benefits the community receives as a result of the active exercise of that freedom by others.

    I always say, “The ACLU: Defending all 9 (or is it 8?) Amendments in The Bill of Rights. Well, parts of them, anyway.”


  37. This gunless NRA member couldn’t have said it better, kevrob. I’ll give even more money if they buy a TV station to champion the bill of rights.

  38. kevrob: I once read an ACLU-sponsored book in which they actually incorporated three amendments outside the original ten — I think the thirteenth and fourteenth were among them — in order to bring the number of amendments in the BoR back up to ten after the ones they ignored. The second was one of the replaced amendments, and the ninth and tenth might have been the others.

  39. garym,

    Are you sure about that? I can’t believe they’d be that blatant about it!

    Well, actually I can.

  40. Julian,

    The ACLU is also perfectly happy to sue to dogshit out of private business owners who, as in one recent case, refused on religious grounds to print wedding invitations to a gay marriage. Even-handedness is exactly what that organization lacks, which is the precise reason is also lacks broader support. The number of times it has been wiloing to confront anti-Christian left-wing zealots on university campuses has been paltry by any standard, and you know it.

  41. Julian,

    The ACLU is also perfectly happy to sue to dogshit out of private business owners who, as in one recent case, refused on religious grounds to print wedding invitations to a gay marriage. Even-handedness is exactly what that organization lacks, which is the precise reason is also lacks broader support. The number of times it has been wiloing to confront anti-Christian left-wing zealots on university campuses has been paltry by any standard, and you know it. It is famous for an impossibly narrow understanding of the free exercise clause, refusing even to defend a valedictorian’s right to say the word “God” at a commencement. It’s true that individual chapters of the ACLU are better or worse on this score than others, but on the whole I think we can safely say that the balance of the ACLU’s work has been driven by its craven dependence on funding from avowedly left-wing sources.

  42. The ACLU doesn’t consider the 9th a total dead letter, as it is the source of the reasoning, however crippled, of Roe v. Wade. They have also perked up on the 10th lately, in reference to the civil unions/gay marriage issue, which also involves the “full faith and credit” clause. Again, they, just like every other interest group involving itself in the constitutional fray, pick and choose which parts of the document they strive to defend, ignore, or, in the extreme, invent.


  43. Gary,

    Only if he’s a black reparationist and a one-legged ADA freeloader.

  44. I’m not as concerned with the ACLU being left of my views on occassion as with their advocacy for corporations to enjoy the protections of the Bill of Rights (i.e. corporate personhood)–an abomination that degrades our Constitution and undermines personal liberty.

    Anyway, some of the best work I see on defending civil liberties comes from small young organizations like the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and ReclaimDemocracy.org (BTW, can someone let me know how to add hyperlinks here–I see no instructions). Perhaps those averse to the ACLU should support less partisan groups that deliver an impact with a tiny fraction of the ACLU’s resources.

  45. Every time I see someone say that the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to people who organize as corporations, I’m fascinated. We’d have lots of press freedom, for example, if only newspapers owned by individuals were protected by the First Amendment, wouldn’t we?

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