July 23, 2024

Thoughts on the ACLU

Russell recently took me to task over my statement that the ACLU actively seeks to suppress the Christian religion and highlighted one of his readers who pointed out several cases where the organization has defended individual high school student’s religious freedoms.

These cases do muddy the waters.  Even though it makes my distaste for the ACLU marginally harder to defend, I’m glad to see that the group can do some good after all.

Yet despite these good deeds, it certainly doesn’t take long to discover an even greater number of cases where the ACLU has acted against Christians’ freedoms.

Here are a few summaries:

“the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Newark public school district, saying a school’s decision to hold its graduation ceremonies in a Baptist church violated a Muslim student’s religious freedom””the ACLU of Louisiana sponsored a lawsuit today to stop the endorsement of religion at Stockwell Place Elementary School in Bossier Parish…That is what prompted them to complain:  about a Christian cross on a teacher’s classroom door, the endorsement of a group called “Stallions for Christ” (led by a teacher during recess), a religiously oriented student choral presentation that opened with a prayer, nativity scenes in the school and a DARE graduation program with religious songs, a student-led prayer and religious speech by Mr. Kruithoff and two deputies from the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department.

“Filed on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Eastern Missouri, the lawsuit claims that on two successive days in May 2005, school assemblies at Doniphan Elementary School began with teachers leading a prayer”

“The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed its fifth religion-related lawsuit in 13 years against an eastern Louisiana school district, this time alleging that a principal improperly allowed people to distribute Bibles to students.”

“a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and a Muslim woman over using the Quran and other non-Christian texts for courtroom oaths should be allowed to go forward”

“A program that teaches abstinence is at the center of a new lawsuit against the federal government. The ACLU is filing suit against “The Silver Ring Thing,” which it alleges promotes religion.”

“the settlement of a 1999 lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the Department of Defense. Under the terms of the settlement, the DoD was required to instruct military commanders that the Boy Scouts may not be supported by military bases in any official capacity”

Without going into the specifics of each case, it’s clear from these cases – and from those of Russell’s friend – that the ACLU actively seeks out cases involving what it may consider to be “underrepresented” parties and pursues them regardless of the cost to school districts and other governmental agencies or the cases’ merits relating to the betterment of society.

Rather than saying “ACLU is for freedom of expression for all Americans” as Russell does, I would say, perhaps too generously, that the ACLU is for whatever the underdog in these cases is for, right or wrong.   They’re America’s super-hero, fighting for justice for those who can’t afford to.  At least that’s their spin.

From a neutral perspective, the ACLU is what most local governments and nearly all individuals would consider to be a wealthly, powerful enemy with comparatively unlimited funds.  According to Steven Voigt of Renew America:

In nearly all lawsuits, litigants pay only the fees for their own attorneys, regardless who prevails. This is known as the “American Rule.” One exception to the American Rule is where the plaintiffs’ attorneys recover their fees from the defendant under a fee shifting statute, 42 U.S.C. §1988, which Congress ratified in 1976.

The ACLU and like-minded groups have abused 42 U.S.C. §1988 to perpetuate endless lawsuits, such as the Dover lawsuit, against religion. Using this statute, the ACLU has been accumulating a war chest of cash to fund ongoing and future attacks against communities and schools that display crosses, post the Ten Commandments, set up nativity scenes, permit moments of silence, or allow public prayer. In the crosshairs of the barrage of litigation are groups such as the Boy Scouts of America and the American Legion–but also tiny libraries, schools, and small municipalities that are typically funded by local taxes and do not have the resources to fend off the high-priced lawyers who sweep in on behalf of the ACLU and similar left-wing groups.

The ACLU’s and the AUSCS’s use of the fee-shifting provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1988 to fund a self-sustaining campaign of litigation against religion is leagues astray from legislative intent. Nonetheless, these groups concede that their use of 42 U.S.C. § 1988 is essential to continue their litigation in religion cases. Following the Dover decision, the ACLU and the AUSCS issued a joint press release where they stated that they “rely on awards of attorneys’ fees in litigation to carry out their important work.”[3] Similarly, a Rhode Island attorney helping the ACLU told the press that it “is critical to the mission of the ACLU that it be able to receive fees generated in civil-rights litigation and reinvest funds to pursue litigation.

Let’s be clear on this point:  An organization that attacks the Boy Scouts is not interested in truth, justice, or the American way.  Neither are they truly interested in civil rights.  They’re interested in removing that group’s influence over young Americans.  Why?  Because they disagree with the Boy Scouts policies and values.

In many cases they do this by outspending the opposition, essentially blackmailing school districts, local governments, and other organizations who can’t afford to fight protracted legal battles with a better-funded opponent into retreating from their support of Christianity and, on rare occasions, other religions.
It’s no coincidence that nearly every time I hear about the ACLU filing a lawsuit I end up cringing because the suit is against people, places, and organizations who believe the same things I do.  White, middle class, Christian males are the enemy of the ACLU, even if they do toss us a bone every once in a while by defending one of our kids.
The legal basis for the ACLU’s position is the standard liberal interpretation of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the relevant portion of which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

How this denies a local school district the right to teach a Bible elective as it sees fit is a bit of a mystery.  Rather than deconstructing the liberal argument (again), allow me to turn to Alan Keyes, a scholar and politician of some note:

“[The Founding Fathers] put an amendment in the Constitution with … wording intended to tell the Congress and thereby the national government that the whole business of religious belief, that whole business of any regime, any attitude to be imparted through law, that it was none of the federal government’s business.

“Now, that still gives rise to the possibility. Some folks don’t want to see it. There might be states in which they require a religious test or oath of office. There might be states in which they have established churches, where subventions are given to schools and so forth to teach the Bible. There might be places where you and I might disagree with the religion some folks wanted to put in place over their communities. But guess what the Founders believed? They believed that people in their states and localities had the right to live under institutions they would put together to govern themselves according to their faith.”

Enough said.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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