Friday, March 03, 2006

The ACLU and religious liberty

I've always been fascinated by the full-throated hostility many social conservatives, and conservative Christians in particular, bear toward the ACLU. Yes, the ACLU supports separation of church and state. But it also defends religious groups on free speech and religious liberty grounds.

After hearing far too many assertions that the ACLU has a secular, anti-Christian agenda, I e-mailed them. I asked for a list of religious liberty cases they've undertaken. Here's what they sent me -- and remember that it is merely a *partial* list.

2004: Indiana Civil Liberties Union defends the rights of Baptist minister to preach his message on public streets: LINK
2004: After ACLU intervention on behalf of Christian valedictorian, Michigan high school agrees to stop censoring religious yearbook entries: LINK
2004: ACLU of Washington defends right of evangelical minister to preach on sidewalks: LINK
2004: ACLU of Virginia threatens lawsuit and officials agree not to prohibit baptisms on public property in Falmouth Waterside Park in Stafford County: LINK
2004: ACLU of Nevada supports free speech rights of evangelists to preach on the sidewalks of the Strip in Las Vegas: LINK
2004: ACLU of Nebraska defends church facing eviction by the City of Lincoln: LINK
2003: ACLU of Rhode Island supports rights of carolers to sing outside women's prison on Christmas Eve. Prison officials back down, agree to let the caroling take place.
2003: ACLU of Massachusetts defends students punished for distributing candy Canes with religious messages: LINK
2002: ACLU of Pennsylvania files discrimination lawsuit over denial of zoning permit for African American Baptist church: LINK
2002: ACLU of Massachusetts files brief supporting right of Church of the Good News to run ads criticizing the securalization of Christmas and promoting Christianity as the "one true religion" after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Agency refuses to allow the ads on subways.
2002: ACLU of Iowa supports right of students to distribute Christian literature in public schools during non-instructional times. Files amicus brief in case for students barred from doing so in Davenport: LINK
2002: ACLU helps Reverend Jerry Falwell win ruling that state of Virginia must allow churches to incorporate: LINK
2002: ACLU defends Christian church's right to run "Anti-Santa" ads in Boston subways: LINK
2001: ACLU of Utah negotiates settlement enabling evangelical Christian ministry to set up booth at state fair on same terms as other vendors. Group previously had been excluded from the fair because some patrons objected to content of their message.
2000: ACLU of Maryland supports Baltimore police officer suspended for wearing his hair in locks for religious reasons.
1999: The ACLU of Maryland assists the March for Life Committee in getting a permit for an anti-abortion march in Annapolis without having to pay a $5,400 fee the city was seeking. The ACLU worked with the American Center for Law & Justice to revise a proposed city ordinance so as to keep free speech free.
1999: ACLU of West Virginia files suit on behalf of a minister who declined, for religious reasons, to have his photograph taken for a driver license.
1998: ACLU of New Jersey files a lawsuit on behalf of the right of two police officers in Newark to wear beards as a matter of religious freedom. As Muslims, the officers wore beards as part of their religious beliefs.
1998: ACLU of Eastern Missouri win job back and permission to wear pin for a nurse who lost her job because she refused to remove a cross-shaped lapel pin from her uniform. The hospital had claimed the nurse violated its employee dress code when she expressed her Christian beliefs by wearing the pin.
1997: Arizona Civil Liberties Union sues City of Phoenix to challenge an ordinance under which the City refused to allow the Children of the Rosary, an anti-abortion group, to place ads on City buses. The lawsuit was filed jointly with the American Center for Law and Justice.
1996: ACLU of Virginia files lawsuit for church in Richmond threatened with closure of its Sunday meal program by city officials because of zoning regulations.
1995: ACLU of Washington supports right of a Baptist minister to distribute religious tracts in a park in Renton after police asked him to desist because he lacked City permission. The City relented after the ACLU pointed out that the law cited against the minister applied only to commercial activities.
1995: ACLU of Vermont wins ruling from state Human Services Board waiving state Social Welfare Dept. requirement for use of Social Security numbers by students receiving Medicaid and food stamp benefits. Their parents believed that such permanent numbers represent mark of the Anti-Christ, according to the Book of Revelations. ACLU argued that their religious beliefs could be protected by use of random identifying numbers.
1995: ACLU of Massachusetts successfully defended rights of prisoners to possess and use religious articles in their cells. Worcester County Sheriff had seized rosaries, prayer beads, religious medals, books and symbols, claiming they were signs of gang membership. ACLU of MA filed suit on behalf of the prisoners' rights to practice their religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the state constitution.
1995: ACLU of Massachusetts filed friend of the court brief in support of two women who were fired for refusing to work at the racetrack on Christmas Day.
1995: ACLU of Iowa successfully sued City of Waterloo to defend right of conservative Christian activist to broadcast on public access television.
1994: ACLU of Rhode Island files a federal lawsuit on behalf of the RI State Right to Life Committee, the RI State Rifle and Revolver Association and numerous other non-profit groups challenging a House of Representatives rule that bars private, but not government, lobbyists from the floor of the House while it is in session.
1994: ACLU of Pennsylvania assisted a pregnant 17-year-old whose parents wanted her to have an abortion she didn't want. She had moved away from home to continue her pregnancy, but her parents called police to have her brought home. ACLU convinced officials to let her continue her pregnancy and live away from parents.
1993: ACLU successfully defends the right of a woman to refuse, on religious grounds, to submit to a court-ordered caesarian section.
1993: ACLU of Northern California defends an 8th-grade student's right to wear a shirt saying "Real Women Love Jesus" in school by writing letters to principal. Result: School district lifts ban on shirt. LINK
1993: ACLU of New Jersey files an amicus brief on behalf of anti-abortion picketers. "Our defense of freedom of speech clearly cannot vary, and has not varied, with the views expressed." -- ACLU attorney Frank Corrado.
1993: ACLU of Florida offers legal assistance to Operation Rescue, who refused the offer.
1993: ACLU joins battle to overturn a court ruling which banned a minister from holding meetings at a public school in New York State.
1992: ACLU of Rhode Island files a friend-of-the-court brief challenging a state judge's increase of bail for anti-abortion defendants, charged with obstructing a clinic, who refused to provide their Social Security numbers.
1991: ACLU of Northern California offers support for man arrested for displaying photographs of human fetuses. "The ACLU is pro-choice, but the fact that we might disagree with their message would never dissuade us from defending their right to speak out." --Elaine Elinson, Public Information director, ACLU-Northern California.
1990: ACLU of Southern California files a brief supporting Operation Rescue's appeal of a federal judge's ruling upholding the use of "pain compliance" techniques by L.A. police.
1990: ACLU of Rhode Island files a friend-of-the-court brief in state Supreme Court in support of anti-abortion protesters challenging the constitutionality of a town ordinance limiting residential picketing.
1990: ACLU of Central Florida backs televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker's attempt to challenge to zoning laws in Orlando, claiming the law's prohibition of churches in industrial zones violates church/state separation.
1990: ACLU of Iowa supports anti-abortionists' challenge to an Iowa City picketing ordinance.
1989: ACLU of Connecticut offers assistance to Operation Rescue demonstrators subjected to pain compliance holds. ACLU state director calls for state legislature to hold hearings on the issue and consideration forbidding their use.
1988: ACLU of Rhode Island favorably settles an administrative complaint challenging the use on police applicants of a standardized psychological test which asks questions relating to fundamentalist religious beliefs.
1982: ACLU of Rhode Island mounts a successful federal challenge on behalf of an unendorsed Democratic right to life candidate, to a state law allowing only political party committees to hold raffles to raise funds for political campaigns.

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Blogger Dyre42 said...

*golf claps*

I'm gonna have to bookmark this post for later use.

4/24/2006 11:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Thanks! And please do. I've actually seen this list change minds. It's amazing what a few facts can do.

4/25/2006 9:31 AM  
Blogger Allen said...

See also my website

10/23/2006 7:16 AM  
Blogger Moneyrunner said...

Did you ever wonder why so many school districts decided prohibit religious expression? Did those decisions just appear out of thin air when, say, in 1950 schools began he day with the Pledge and a brief prayer? Just curious.

You may want to ask the ACLU.

7/16/2009 6:45 AM  

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