Free Speech

ACLU Identifies 'Critical Civil Liberties Challenges Facing Our Country.' Does Not Include First Amendment

Is the ACLU going soft on the First Amendment?

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Credit: Mr T in DC / Foter.com

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.

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    1. I wonder where the good Professor Collins has been all this time. As is well-known, the ACLU started retreating from its once-aggressive defense of “free speech” at least a decade ago, and for good reason. Occasionally they will still get involved in a popular “First Amendment” case where the solution is obvious (good public relations), but you won’t find them touching anything like inappropriately deadpan “Gmail parody” with a ten-foot pole. See, for example, the documentation of America’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      No ACLU involvement there (very wise on their part), just a foolish submission from the ignorant hacks at the AACDL (which apparently influenced the absurd “First Amendment dissent” filed by the former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, who fortunately had to resign from his post a little while ago). And if this weren’t enough, I could point to various web posts signaling this phenomenon back when the transition began in the years following 9/11. Despite my deep respect for the academic community, Professor Collins seems to have been living in an ivy tower all this time, not to have noticed such an obvious and laudable trend.

  1. Now that the proggies think they have won politically they don’t need free speech anymore. Never confuse their tactical support for free speech with a principled belief in free speech. They only cared about speech when their speech was being repressed.

    1. Principals, not principles.

    2. Maybe they have cocktail parties that they want to attend.

  2. Let’s not forget that the ACLU was a big supporter of state-mandated communication – Net Neutrality !

  3. The time when the ACLU was in any way committed to liberties, rather than to serving as just another progressive pressure group, has long passed.

    1. I totally agree

    2. They’ve gone full progtard.

  4. “The ACLU just began its annual fundraising campaign and released an accompanying “National ACLU Workplan”

    The ACLU just reflects the desires of its donors. Lots of organizations are like this.

    Switching utilities from coal to natural gas releases 40% less CO2 into the atmosphere, but the Sierra Club opposes fracking and building new plants that burn natural gas instead of coal. Why?

    Because opposing fracking is driving donations right now–and they may be a non-profit, but they’re still trying to maximize donations.

    Same thing with the ACLU. Second Amendment cases don’t drive donations to the ACLU either. This just means their donors are turning against the First Amendment–and it’s reflected in their marketing.

    Incidentally, this may auger well for the libertarian moment in a perverse way. The dividing lines are increasingly between those who are for and against personal freedom. That makes liberty the central issue rather than a distraction.

    1. “The dividing lines are increasingly between those who are for and against personal freedom. That makes liberty the central issue rather than a distraction.”

      So basically the dividing lines are between libertarians and everyone else.

      1. The way to state this is STATE-MANDATED ASSOCIATION (FASCISM) versus FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

      2. And isn’t that what we want?

        The issue is libertarianism.

      3. So basically the dividing lines are between libertarians and everyone else.

        You ever feel like one of the defenders at the Alamo? Cut off, surrounded, with no possibility of winning?

        1. If the more anti-libertarian the left becomes, the more libertarian the right becomes, that isn’t a bad thing.

          It’s better than when libertarianism was completely off the radar of both parties.

          1. I don’t see much evidence of the right becoming more libertarian either though. With the exception of Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie, there’s not too many pro-liberty voices out there. Certainly not enough to push back.

            1. The right is becoming, for instance, the opponents of PC speech codes. The left is becoming the party of hate speech codes and safe spaces. I see this happening on a number of issues.

              1. The right has always held that stance. That’s nothing new.

          2. If the more anti-libertarian the left becomes, the more libertarian the right becomes, that isn’t a bad thing.

            I was hopeful for a good long while that that was the way things were trending with the right.

            Donald Trump has given me good cause to doubt that.

            1. A lot of people on the right are against Donald Trump. This may in fact make them more libertarian.

              Trump also mainly gets support from moderate Republicans and from Democrats who are blue collar workers.

  5. the ACLU just began its annual fundraising campaign and released an accompanying “National ACLU Workplan,”

    Is that anything like a Gosplan?

  6. I get so tired of the backhanded defenses offered of the ACLU. The line is always “sure they are not perfect but they do a lot of good things”. No they really don’t. Every time I see someone doing good things for civil rights it is never the ACLU. It is always groups like FIRE and the Institute for Justice and the Innocence Project and groups like that. Occasionally the ACLU will defend the KKK or the Nazis right to march somewhere but given their refusal to take other more worthy cases, it seems that they do that because defending those groups serves the co purpose of embarrassing the right.

    Meanwhile, the ACLU is now actively hostile to both free speech and gun rights. There really isn’t any defending them anymore.

    1. Occasionally the ACLU will defend the KKK or the Nazis right to march somewhere

      And really, when was the last time they even did that? Have there been any cases in the last, oh…, 10 years or so?

      And you’re right, they take those because they’re both high profile, which drives donations, and they embarrass “the right”. It allows them to get the smug self satisfaction that comes from pointing, laughing, and saying “Pffft! Get a load of these guys!” to fellow progtards.

    2. This should not surprise. The ACLU has always been highly selective in the civil liberties it will protect and those it will disregard, if not demonstrate outright hostility toward. Protection of property rights, the right to sell one’s services, the right to choose one’s profession, and the much-maligned liberty of contract have never been supported by the ACLU, and it almost always argues against them. It is entirely in keeping with the ACLU’s history to toss aside other civil liberties when they no longer serve the agendas of the ACLU’s predominantly left-wing donors.

    3. I’ll also note that those right to march cases were decades ago.

    4. The ACLU was on the right side on Citizens United. But a huge number of former ACLU officials were angry about it.

  7. None of the cool kids let the 1A get in the way of enforcing right thinking.

  8. “Part One: Battling Bad Police Practices and Racial Disparity, and Protecting the First Amendment”

    http://www.acluohio.org/wp-con…..rkPlan.pdf

    1. Yes, they mention the 1st amendment in passing and talk about
      people’s right to protest, which is great. But they ignore all the
      issues on college campuses (particularly public ones), with “free
      speech zones” and PC-ism and micro aggressions and trigger
      warnings, etc., etc.

  9. IIRC, the ACLU actually supported Citizen’s United when it was first issued, but kinda shut up about free speech in general when all of its progtard supporters turned against it.

  10. So, now the ACLU doesn’t protect the 1st or 2nd amendments. Really useful, them…

    1. They don’t seem to be all that effective at protecting the rest of the BoR either. They certainly don’t seem to have been very successful at defending the 4th.

      1. Or 9th, or 10th.

        Usually the 3rd is safe, though. That’s just because they violate it only over very short periods of time, while they’re violating the 4th.

  11. Is the ACLU going soft on the First Amendment?

    Yes.

  12. The ACLU is funded by donations, right? It’s no surprise a left-leaning organization is reflecting current left-leaning thought. For them, the 2nd went to the trash heap a while ago and the 1st should only apply to speech they agree with. No hate speech, whatever the Hell that is, exactly.

    1. It’s almost a complete reversal, historically the left (mostly) argued robustly for freedom of expression, now they’re (mostly) openly hostile to this principal.

      1. It is and it’s a shame. Free speech shouldn’t be a wedge issue but it’s becoming one. It’s depressing.

        1. The good news, we have a First Amendement that’s in pretty good shape and a SCOTUS (for now) that respects the principals and philosophy that undergirds it. Remember, it was 8-1 in the recent Westoboro case (Clarence Thomas WTF).

      2. As rudehost pointed out above, they think they’ve “won.” So now they’re going to go after any speech that disagrees them. It’s what authoritarian assholes do.

        1. *disagrees with them*

          Tiping iz teh hard…

          1. I her that

      3. The Left has never argued for freedom of expression–they argued for themselves to be allowed to speak without interruption or rebuttal.

        They called this the ‘free speech movement’

        The point was to frame their propagandizing as the speech of martyrs.

    2. “…the 1st should only apply to speech they agree with. No hate speech, whatever the Hell that is, exactly.”

      Hate speech is any speech they don’t agree with.

      1. It’s “mommy he said a mean thing to me” speech.

  13. The ACLU has basically turned into the SPLC, blind to any injustices perpetrated by anybody but white Christian men.

    1. In that regard they’re no different than the rest of the Progressive left.

      1. It’s more general than that, just a mask of benevolance concealing raging power and blood lust.

    2. Isnt the SPLC basically a scam to solicit and make money off of poor people?

      1. It’s certainly a scam to enrich Morris Dees, the founder who now has a fabulous mansion. Not many non-profits have an off-shore bank account.

      2. It’s also a front for the explicit demonization of conservatives and libertarians.

        It provides a ready source of useful quotes for reporters who want to cast an organization as an extremist dangerous hate group.

  14. Yes, it seems that they do that because defending those groups serves the co purpose of embarrassing the right.

  15. Where has the ACLU been during all of the campus rape hysteria? I am just naive I guess and thought defending the wrongfully accused or any accused who is denied a fair hearing and due process was a pretty important civil rights cause. Yet, the ACLU is nowhere to be found. The Duke LAX case was about as close to an American Dreyfus case as you are ever going to see. Yet, I can’t remember the ACLU having much to say in defense of those who were wrongfully accused and kicked out of school in that case.

    They are just another leftwing hack organization. And that is a shame.

    1. I believe that back in the 90s the ACLU came straight out and said that in the hierarchy of civil rights, protecting the traditionally oppressed overshadowed other rights.

      1. That doesn’t surprise me. And if they did say that, they were admitting that they no longer have any interest in protecting civil rights by any reasonable definition of the term, as if they ever did.

        Seriously, did the ACLU ever do anything but defend communists and pornographers and anyone else whose defense furthered the leftist cause? Even if you look back at the civil rights movement, it wasn’t the ACLU who brought cases like Brown. It was the NAACP. Thurgood Marshall wasn’t an ACLU lawyer.

      2. Then that’s one more example of their intellectual bankruptcy. Nothing is more important than the First and Second Amendments for the protection of oppressed groups.

        1. I believe it came out during that famous case where the woman got into the officer’s academy and the ACLU official whined loudly that she should have been given preferential treatment during training when she failed out.

          He made some tortured argument about lowering expectations when dealing with weak people. As I recall, it was kind of jaw-dropping.

          1. Well as I’m sure you’re aware, for the collective good of us all, the ends justify the means.

            There’s the good kind of egalitarianism that’s philosophically embedded in the US Constitution and based on the classical definition and understanding of human rights centered on the individual and there’s its evil twin, an ethical and moral inversion, that demands equality of outcomes. The ACLU have slipped over the Dark Side.

  16. ACLU Identifies ‘Critical Civil Liberties Challenges Facing Our Country.’ Does Not Include First Amendment
    Is the ACLU going soft on the First Amendment?

    Yes. And it ain’t news.

  17. The ACLU and DPA are 2 great organizations that were victims of their own success. They see the end of the road and then backtrack. The country is gearing up for a “War on Speech” as the war on drugs dies down. This will be a full scale attack on the 1A including banning internet sites and shutting down comment sections based on the fallacy that “Free speech can incite violence” and all manner of “hate crime” laws based on campus free speech codes. David Frum is one of the pioneers of this philosophy, along with half the Chicago Law School. It is right out of the drug war playbook and employs the “Drugs makes you commit crimes” fallacy and of course “But what about the children!” So I actually see this as a success not a failure, we just must be vigilant. In fact the 1A is strong and has been vindicated multiple times by the courts. (Other Amendments, such as gun rights and illegal search and seizure are not so secure.) Trump is of course a grave threat to 1A. Ironically, his anti-PC attacks support it. For example, “Some people need to get beat up a little” makes it hypocritical to ban when others say something similar. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. Finally, always confront coarse or insulting language. Don’t be dissuaded by the people tell you to ‘ignore it – they are just crazy’. That’s how Europe’s war on speech began and they are waging a full scale assault and it is an olde-tyme witch hunt and it will not end well.

  18. Any totalitarian philosophy necessarily will be at war with the principles of freedom.

  19. The ACLU covers too many bases anyway. We need a 1a organization specifically, the same way we have more than one 2a organization.

  20. It seems like the ACLU only ever supports civil liberties as an accidental by-product of its Anti-Americanism.

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