ACLU fights dirty little battles for all of us - Durwood McAlister atlantajournal 06-05-83

This brief column (written 5 days after I moved to Florida) best sums up why I have been actively involved with this singular organization for the past quarter-century.

ACLU fights dirty little battles for all of us

By Durwood McAlister              Atlanta Journal         06-05-83

The trouble with the ACLU is that it's always hanging out in bad company.             

Every time it pops up in the news lately it seems to be yoked with un­desirables in a battle against the will of the majority.

Its "have-lawyer-will­ travel" approach to guarding our liberties has taken it into court on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan, communists, atheists and convicted felons. It has found itself arguing against state sponsorship of Christian symbols, against prayer in schools and for the right of robed Klansmen to march down the main street of College Park.

That's not the kind of client list, nor the issues, that any reputable law firm would be pleased to claim.

As a matter of fact, the American Civil Liberties Union - given a choice - would happily share the burden with others. Unfortu­nately, no one else is clamoring to take on the unpopular causes and unsavory clients.

So why not just let them go unrepresented? Because, in every case, however unpopular or trivial, there is a potential threat to all our free­doms.

The ACLU stands with Klansmen and atheists and communists because their rights must be protected if our rights are to be secure.

The ACLU knows that the battle to re­serve the freedoms we all cherish is seldom fought on the high, level parade grounds we would choose.

Liberty is lost in the swamps and thickets, in the dirty little skirmishes where the flag ­waving, slogan-shouting right-thinking major­ity overwhelms the rights of the unlovely mis­fits who are society's outcasts.

Fred W. Friendly, in his book "Minnesota Rag," offers an instructive example of just how important those dirty little skirmishes can be.

He tells the story of the "Saturday Press," an offensive, anti-Semitic, irresponsible scandal sheet in Minneapolis which was restrained from publishing in 1927 by a judge acting under a Minnesota "public nuisance" law.

The ACLU took the case on behalf of pub­lisher Jay M. Near, arguing that restraint before publication was a violation of constitu­tional guarantees of a free press. The major newspapers in Minnesota scoffed at the fears of the ACLU. One noted, "The Civil Liberties Union will no doubt make a great pother about the freedom of the press, but the legitimate newspapers will be rather bored than excited about it.'

The case eventually reached the U.S. Su­preme Court, who ruled in Near's favor. The decision was the key precedent cited by the Court 40 years later when it rejected President Richard Nixon's attempt to prevent publication of the Pentagon Papers.

There was a world of difference between the powerful New York Times and Washington Post and the offensive scandalmonger Jay Near; but the same principle of law applied equally to both.

That is the lesson the friendless warriors of the ACLU never forget. It is one we all need to remember.


Nothing could exemplify the ACLU's uncompromising fealty to principal and intellectual honesty than this:
ACLU Tells High School to Allow Students to Protest ACLU at Football  10-21-09
Gate City, VA – The ACLU of Virginia today asked the principal at Gate City High School to honor the free speech rights of students who plan to protest the ACLU at the school's football game tomorrow night.
The students are reacting to a September 15 letter from the ACLU of Virginia telling school officials that a sectarian prayer delivered over the public address system at a football game was unconstitutional. According to news reports, the students have now produced more than 1,000 t-shirts, which they plan to wear to this Friday's game. The front of the t-shirts shows the school's initials, a cross, and the words, "I still pray…" On the back is, "In Jesus' name."
"Religious liberty demands that the government not impose religious views on anyone," said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, "and free speech demands that the government allow individuals to express their views. This means that Gate City High School officials may not permit sectarian prayers over the public address system at football games, but that they must allow students to protest the ACLU's effort to stop those prayers."
"This is not nearly as ironic as it seems, and it is certainly a wonderful opportunity for the school and the students to think about how fundamental constitutional principles are applied to real life," added Willis.
In the September 15 letter, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg warned Principal Greg Ervin that a sectarian prayer delivered over the public address system before a football game earlier that month violated a U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that such prayers carry the impermissible endorsement of the school and coerce participation in a religious exercise by persons attending the game. Glenberg's letter was written after the ACLU received a complaint from the parent of a student.
In today's letter, Willis writes that students are guaranteed the right of free speech, so long as the speech does not materially disrupt the educational process. Willis points out that a football game takes place during non-instructional time and doubts that a thousand students wearing t-shirts with religious messages will be disruptive.
For the full text of Attorney Glenberg's letter: www.acluva.org/newsreleases2009/GateCityHighSchoolprayerletter.pdf
'Nuff said.
Thanks to Dwight for this forward.

Nigel Watson  freethinker  727.493.1990 freesense@Gmail.com

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." – Krishnamurti
-A good pun is its own reword.

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