Nadine Strossen’s ACLU wants new members, which it won’t attract so long as its first instinct is to side with the State against the underdog.
Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, has just written to me and thousands of her closest personal friends asking us to become “card-carrying” members 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. Frustrating, however, is how the ACLU defines those fundamental freedoms. While fighting against intrusive government searches, the organization opposes measures to allow families to choose a better education for their kids. While opposing capital punishment, it fights any attempt to limit abortion, even near-infanticide through partial-birth abortion.
Much of what the ACLU does is unpopular, but this willingness to court unpopularity is one of its strengths. For instance, it has supported the grotesque North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) against a wrongful death lawsuit charging that group with responsibility in a boy’s rape and murder. The ACLU rightly worries about the precedent of claiming that monstrous behavior can be blamed on reading material, even offensive material, which does not advocate commission of the criminal act. The National Rifle Association, no less than NAMBLA, could find itself a target in such an action in the future.
Unfortunately, the ACLU fails to consider that many of the most emotional social conflicts could be most effectively resolved by shrinking the size and power of the State. The basic problem: the more activities carried out in the public square, the more intense the political fights over how those activities are carried out.
To wit, the public school monopoly ensures that a variety of political minorities will constantly be disappointed as changing majorities impose their values and preferences. Prayer, yes or no? Sex education, Pledge of Allegiance, abstinence or character training, drug tests, military recruitment, and more — yes or no?
Instead of fighting every issue before administrative bureaucrats, elected officials, and appointed judges, education should be placed outside of government control. At the very least, people should be able to choose — a favorite ACLU word — to escape from the present system.
However, the ACLU resolutely opposes attempts to do this. “Congress must not divert funds to a voucher program that is designed to help only a few students, leaving the vast majority behind,” says the ACLU of proposals for vouchers for kids in Washington, D.C. But every day the public schools leave those very same children behind.
The group opposes vouchers every where and every time, no matter how needy the students or how bad the schools. Cleveland, Florida, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C. — the ACLU would keep kids in institutions where they learn nothing and are sometimes killed instead of allowing government to provide vouchers which parents could — horrors! — spend at private religious schools. Yet religious parents are forced to pay for public schools which the ACLU is determined to prevent from ever mentioning religion.
Similarly, the ACLU went after the state of New Jersey for providing capital improvement grants to two Catholic high schools. Political pork, to be sure, but no different than grants to private secular schools. Or, frankly, secular public schools.
THE ACLU SUED the City of San Diego for allowing the Boy Scouts to rent 18 acres of a local park 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 Boy Scouts are as worthy as — indeed, far worthier than — most groups seeking to use public lands. The fact that the Boy Scouts require members to believe in God (but not subscribe to any particular sectarian tenets) should not disqualify them from sharing in access to public property.
The ACLU is not asking for neutrality in the public square. It wants active hostility to religion. But fairness would require that government ban subsidies to all groups, including the local atheists. Or sell off the park instead of engaging in religious discrimination.
The limited nature of the organization’s commitment to “civil liberties” is well demonstrated by its position on abortion. It’s a nasty issue, one that requires a difficult balance between the life, liberty, and rights of two parties, mother and child. No one who holds freedom in high regard can feel fully comfortable with state intervention in such circumstances.
But freedom requires responsibility. And to exercise the choice of having sex requires being accountable for the consequences of creating a child. To say that one may have sex at any time with any one, but may destroy the resulting human life at any time and in any way, is licentiousness, not freedom.
The ACLU cannot even bring itself to accept restrictions on partial birth abortion, separated only by seconds from infanticide. Upon congressional passage of the latest measure to ban the procedure, the ACLU promised “an immediate legal challenge to the ban to protect women and their doctors.” But how about protecting the children?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?