Setting The Record Straight

Ken AshfordGodstuffLeave a Comment

I’m getting a little tired of wingers saying, with no evidence whatsoever, that the ACLU is trying to remove religion from our lives.  Have these people ever bothered to find out what the ACLU position is on religious liberty?   

It’s quite simple: the ACLU believes that the right to practice religion, or not to practice religion, is one of the most important rights in the the Bill of Rights.

What does this mean in everyday terms?  It means that the government — from the federal government right down to the local school board — can neither promote religion, nor squelch its expression.  Pray tell, who has a problem with this?

And despite the lies from the wingnut right, the ACLU is very active in making sure that peoples’ rights to religious expression are protected.  Here are just a few of the ACLU’s efforts in this regard:

September 20, 2005: ACLU of New Jersey joins lawsuit supporting second-grader’s right to sing "Awesome God" at a talent show.

August 4, 2005: ACLU helps free a New Mexico street preacher from prison.

May 25, 2005: ACLU sues Wisconsin prison on behalf of a Muslim woman who was forced to remove her headscarf in front of male guards and prisoners.

February 2005: ACLU of Pennsylvania successfully defends the right of an African American Evangelical church to occupy a church building purchased in a predominantly white parish.

December 22, 2004: ACLU of New Jersey successfully defends right of religious expression by jurors.

December 14, 2004: ACLU joins Pennsylvania parents in filing first-ever challenge to "Intelligent Design" instruction in public schools.

November 20, 2004: ACLU of Nevada supports free speech rights of evangelists to preach on the sidewalks of the strip in Las Vegas.

November 12, 2004: ACLU of Georgia files a lawsuit on behalf of parents challenging evolution disclaimers in science textbooks.

November 9, 2004: ACLU of Nevada defends a Mormon student who was suspended after wearing a T-shirt with a religious message to school.

August 11, 2004: ACLU of Nebraska defends church facing eviction by the city of Lincoln.

July 10, 2004: Indiana Civil Liberties Union defends the rights of a Baptist minister to preach his message on public streets.

June 9, 2004: ACLU of Nebraska files a lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim woman barred from a public pool because she refused to wear a swimsuit.

June 3, 2004: Under pressure from the ACLU of Virginia, officials agree not to prohibit baptisms on public property in Falmouth Waterside Park in Stafford County.

May 11, 2004: After ACLU of Michigan intervened on behalf of a Christian Valedictorian, a public high school agrees to stop censoring religious yearbook entries.

March 25, 2004: ACLU of Washington defends an Evangelical minister’s right to preach on sidewalks.

February 21, 2003: ACLU of Massachusetts defends students punished for distributing candy canes with religious messages.

October 28, 2002: ACLU of Pennsylvania files discrimination lawsuit over denial of zoning permit for African American Baptist church.

July 11, 2002: ACLU supports right of Iowa students to distribute Christian literature at school.

April 17, 2002: In a victory for the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the ACLU of Virginia, a federal judge strikes down a provision of the Virginia Constitution that bans religious organizations from incorporating.

January 18, 2002: ACLU defends Christian church’s right to run "anti-Santa" ads in Boston subways.

Check out the next-to-last one: the ACLU and Falwell were on the same side!

So next time you hear the smear that ACLU has an anti-relilgion agenda, point out the lie.  The people making such claims don’t like the ACLU, because the ACLU believes in religious freedom for everybody, and that’s what makes the American Taliban so pissed.

RELATED:  This is what prompted this post — a conservative Christian effort to shame the ACLU by sending them "Merry Christmas" cards.  I’m not angered by the idea — I’m amused by it.  If they truly understood what the ACLU was about, they would see that the ACLU, rather than being shamed or tweaked, would simply smile at the receipt of a "Merry Christmas" card.  If the ACLU was smart, they would take these cards seriously, and write each one of the senders back . . . something like:

Dear Sir/Madam:

It was with great pleasure that we received your Christmas card this holiday season.   As you know, the ACLU is working hard to ensure religious freedom for all in this great country of ours.  That is why [list of successes and efforts to date].

We value your continued support, and encourage you to become a supporting member of the ACLU, if you are not one already.  Together, we can fight religious oppression whereever it exists.