Examining the ACLU's Definition of 'Fundamental Freedoms'

Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, has written to ask me to become a “card-carrying member” of the ACLU. She explains: “There is no higher calling, nor greater reward, democracy can offer an individual than the opportunity to stand up for fundamental freedoms in trying times.”

True. But how does the ACLU define fundamental freedoms?

The ACLU regularly courts unpopularity, which is one of its strengths. For instance, it is supporting the grotesque North American Man Boy Love Association against a wrongful death lawsuit charging that group with responsibility in a boy’s rape and murder.

Unfortunately, the ACLU has relieved NAMBLA’s leaders of the embarrassment of defending themselves and the organization of the expense of defending itself. But the ACLU rightly worries about the precedent, which could be turned against other groups, such as the National Rifle Association, of blaming monstrous behavior on reading offensive material.

Too often, however, the group treats symptoms rather than causes. For instance – prayer, sex education, Pledge of Allegiance, yes or no in public schools?

Establishing an educational monopoly inevitably disenfranchises many minorities. So free schools from government control. At the very least, let people choose, a favorite ACLU word, to escape the present system.

However, says the ACLU of proposals for vouchers in Washington, D.C., “Congress must not divert funds to a voucher program that is designed to help only a few students, leaving the vast majority behind.”

But the public schools have left those same children behind. In fact, a star athlete was killed outside of a D.C. school at the end of October.

The ACLU worries that parents might (horror of horrors!) spend vouchers at religious schools. Yet religious parents are forced to pay for public schools in which the ACLU seeks to block any mention of religion.

The money belongs to parents, not the government. Let them spend it just like federal educational loans, choosing between religious and secular institutions.

Another area of conflict is federal grants. The ACLU opposes the president’s faith-based initiative, which would allow religious organizations to receive social service monies.

There are good reasons not to transfer tax dollars to religious groups. But then, religious taxpayers might prefer that their money not be limited to secular organizations. The distribution of public outlays will never be fair: shrink government programs and rely on private charity rather than discriminate against people of faith.

Similarly, the ACLU sued San Diego for allowing the Boy Scouts to rent local parkland for a dollar. “Having gone to great lengths to convince the courts that they are a private religious organization with a constitutionally protected right to discriminate, the Boy Scouts cannot now turn around and ask the taxpayers of San Diego for a public subsidy,” argued Linda Hills, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego.

But the fact that the Boy Scouts require members to believe in God (but not any particular religious tenets) should not disqualify it from sharing public property. Ban subsidies to all groups. Or sell off the park. The ACLU is advocating religious hostility, not neutrality.

The organization’s position on abortion demonstrates its limited commitment to “civil liberties.” It is a difficult issue, one that requires balancing the life and liberty of mother and child.

But freedom requires responsibility. To exercise the choice of having sex requires being accountable for the consequences of creating a child. The ACLU won’t even accept restrictions on partial birth abortion, separated only by minutes from infanticide.

Upon passage of the latest congressional prohibition, the ACLU promised “an immediate legal challenge to the ban to protect women and their doctors.” But how about protecting children?

Similar is the ACLU’s intervention in the “right-to-die” case of Terri Schindler Schiavo, who suffers from a debilitating brain injury. Her husband and parents disagree on her treatment wishes.

One would normally rely upon the husband’s decision, but Michael Schiavo may be thinking of more than his wife. Money was set aside for her care and he is engaged to another woman.

So the Florida legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush mandated reconnecting Terri’s feeding tube. Then the Florida ACLU jumped in on Michael’s side to force his wife’s death. The organization is taking sides in a bitter family dispute, not defending someone’s clearly expressed desire to die.

Join the ACLU? The organization works to stop censorship of speech, limit abusive government searches, and ensure proper criminal procedures. We need the ACLU.

But protecting freedom doesn’t require locking kids in dangerous public schools that don’t teach, forcing religious taxpayers to fund public programs stripped of all religious values, and sacrificing the lives of children and the disabled in the name of choice. I’m not quite ready to join.


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