Is the ACLU going soft on the First Amendment? That's the troubling question raised by University of Washington law professor Ronald Collins, who notes that the ACLU just began its annual fundraising campaign and released an accompanying "National ACLU Workplan," which, in the organization's own words, "lays out [the ACLU's] plans for the year ahead [and] always addresses the most critical civil liberties challenges facing our country."
Yet as Collins reports, "surprisingly, protecting free-speech freedoms is not listed as one of this year's 'critical civil liberties' issues. Neither of the documents contains any mention of the First Amendment."
Collins also shared this discouraging comment from Harvey Silverglate, noted criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and former board member of the Massachusetts ACLU (and sometime Reason contributor). To say the least, Silverglate is not optimistic about the ACLU's long-term commitment to securing First Amendment rights:
Sadly, it comes as no surprise that the national ACLU Board and Staff are nowhere to be seen in the increasingly difficult battle to protect First Amendment freedom of expression rights. This is especially so in areas where the ACLU, more and more, pursues a political or social agenda where the overriding importance of the goal transcends, in the eyes of ACLU's leadership, the needed vitality of free speech principles neutrally and apolitically applied. Fortunately, some ACLU state affiliates still carry the free speech battle flag, but they are a diminishing army in a war that is getting more and more difficult, even though more and more important, to wage.
Read the whole thing here.