Though not sure why, this writer recently received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). As is often done by many of these political lobbies, the survey is designed more to inspire donations to the organization than to obtain opinions.
The letter begins with their concern that “we’re seeing a relentless and wide-ranging assault on our fundamental freedoms.”
Well, one would have to agree with them on that, when looking at the efforts of the Obama administration to go after our Second Amendment rights, and the push by leaders in both political parties to enter into multilateral trade agreements which threaten our national sovereignty.
But these issues are not what the ACLU is troubled about. In fact, the group has historically favored stricter gun control. The position of the ACLU is that the Second Amendment protects only a “collective right” rather than an individual right, despite the Supreme Court’s contrary decision in Columbia v. Heller. This writer has never heard anything from the ACLU about threats to our national sovereignty. And the organization has clearly opposed leaving most matters to the states. In fact, the ACLU has been at the head of the march toward more federal control, in all sorts of matters.
So, just what “fundamental freedoms” does the ACLU see in jeopardy?
Part One of the survey focuses on “Religious Freedom.” Again, my first thought is, Yes, religious liberty is certainly under assault, when we think of business owners forced to celebrate same-sex weddings and the like. But that is not what the ACLU considers an assault on religious liberty.
“Across the country,” the questionnaire begins, “we’re seeing efforts to twist the meaning of religious liberty to allow people and businesses to use religion as a license to discriminate and a means to impose their religious beliefs on others.”
Following this statement is a series of questions which illustrate the amazing interpretation the ACLU places upon “religious liberty.” After asking, “How serious a problem do you think the use of religion to discriminate is in our country today?,” the next question helps us to understand just what the organization finds important.
“How high a priority do you think the ACLU should place on each of the following areas?” The first is “Protecting women from employers using religious beliefs to justify denying women access to contraceptive coverage,” and the second is “Protect[ing] LGBT people from the use of religion by businesses to justify denial of services based on sexual orientation.”
Right off, we can see that the warped view of the ACLU when it comes to “religious freedom” is that it is “religious freedom” to force employers and businesses to abandon their religious beliefs. This is Orwellian.
In fact, a review of the survey reveals that the ACLU seems particularly alarmed at the expression of any religious views, at least those of a Judeo-Christian sort. Other concerns in the survey include “Escalating efforts to impose increasingly severe restrictions on women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health care,” and “Attempts by advocates of creationism and intelligent design to impose their religious beliefs on others by interfering with the teaching of evolution in public school science classrooms.” The organization is also troubled about “Post-Hobby Lobby efforts to permit businesses and individuals to use their personal religious beliefs to deny other people their fundamental freedoms.”
While the survey also mentioned “Efforts across the states to increase voting barriers, making it harder and often impossible for poor, minority, and elderly citizens to make it to the polls,” the ACLU's most pressing concern appears to be that persons of religious faith might actually put that faith into practice. And, of course, their devotion to abortion on demand is absolute.
In fact, the accompanying letter boldly asserts, “At the root of many of the threats to freedom that we are facing at the local, state and federal levels are policies that attempt to mold our country and our personal lives to fit one particular religious or moral viewpoint.”
Importantly, it appears that the ACLU concept of “liberty” is that people should be forced to set their liberty aside — such as their advocacy that pharmacists should be forced to sell abortion-causing drugs, or employers should be forced to finance abortion via employer-provided insurance, covering abortion-causing drugs.
In fairness, historically the ACLU has taken some positions that are shared by constitutionalists, such as its opposition to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s incarceration of almost 100,000 American citizens in relocation centers during World War II. From its inception, though, the ACLU can be characterized as hostile to the Christian faith.
In 1925, it was the ACLU that challenged the Tennessee law banning the teaching of the theory of evolution as a fact in the taxpayer-funded public schools. Clarence Darrow, a prominent criminal defense lawyer and ACLU leader, defended teacher John Scopes, who supposedly taught the theory as fact, in defiance of state law. (Actually, Scopes later admitted that he probably had not taught the theory at all, but just claimed he did in order to test the constitutionality of the law.) Since that time, the ACLU has defended the teaching of evolution as a fact in the schools, while always opposing any alternative view of human origins being even mentioned in the schools.
Since the 1960s, the ACLU has been involved in the Supreme Court decisions which outlawed mandated school prayer, observation of religious holidays, and Bible reading in the public schools.
In 1967, the ACLU made support for abortion an official policy, and has fought to oppose any restrictions on its practice.
Ed Barocas, legal director of the ACLU in New Jersey, told a school that included the phrase “God Bless America” after the Pledge of Allegiance,
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from not only favoring one religion over another, but also from promoting religion over non-religion. The greatest care must be taken to avoid the appearance of governmental endorsement in schools, especially elementary schools, given the impressionable age of the children under the school’s care and authority.
Current positions of the ACLU reflect this strongly secular agenda that bristles with hostility toward biblical Christianity. The organization supports same-sex marriage and the right of “gays” to adopt children; the support of abortion rights; and the elimination of “discrimination” against LGBTQ people. Concerning that latter category, the organization very recently opposed the law in North Carolina designed to protect the privacy of individuals in public restrooms from “transgendered” people, e.g., men who think they are women using women’s restrooms.
Despite its stated devotion to the Bill of Rights, the ACLU is rather selective in which of the first Ten Amendments it chooses to defend. Not only does the Second Amendment not get any love from the ACLU, they have little regard for the Tenth Amendment. For example, Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, opposed the efforts of the Lone Star State to refuse Syrian refugees, insisting, “Texas and other states don’t have veto power in this area.”
The reality is that many, if not most, of the matters that concern Americans were intended by the Founders to be left to the states to resolve. After all, the First Amendment clearly stated that Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion. It is silent on what states, local governments, and school districts can do about it.
This is probably the crux of the matter. Historian Samuel Walker commented that the “greatest impact on American life” of the ACLU was its role in persuading the Supreme Court to “constitutionalize” all these public controversies.
The old saying, “Don’t make a federal case out of it,” is a rule of thumb that the ACLU regularly violates, usually to the detriment of both our civil and religious liberties.
By the way, I did not send them any contribution.
Steve Byas is a professor of history at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College (soon to be Randall University) in Moore, Oklahoma. His book History’s Greatest Libels includes a chapter on the Scopes Monkey Trial and how the history of that event has been grossly distorted.