Supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union who have become disillusioned with the group's governance are gathering the support of former officials, donors, and other ACLU members to challenge the organization's leadership, according to people involved in the discussions.Anthony Romero has aggressively brought the ACLU to the forefront of politics by taking the organization in a direction decidedly antipodal to the Bush foreign policy doctrine (he took over just days before 9/11). Unfortunately, it appears the noble cause of ending America's interventionist policy in Iraq has been tainted by perceived deplorable tactics employed by the ACLU (Abu Ghraib trumpeting, refusal to accept grant money that stipulates none of it be given to state-listed terrorists, demands that Guantanamo Bay detainees be released, etc) that strike me as not opposed to nation-building for the sake of the well-being of the US, but in spite of it.
The target of the nascent campaign is the ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, 40, who took over day-to-day operation of the group in 2001.
While Romero has been attacking the autocracy of the White House, his organization has similarly become increasingly dictatorial. The Bush team is notorious for squelching criticism and demanding allegiance. It appears the former head of the ACLU fears that the putative defenders of free expression are doing the same within their own organization:
One troubling sign for Mr. Romero is the emergence in the opposition camp of his predecessor, Ira Glasser. Since his retirement in 2001 after 23 years at the helm of the ACLU, Mr. Glasser has had little involvement in the civil liberties group's affairs.
However, he appeared at a board meeting earlier this month where proposals to limit speech by board members were debated.
One catalyst for the reform drive was the report from an ACLU committee urging constraints on speech by board members at odds with the organization. One provision said, "A director may publicly disagree with an ACLU policy position, but may not criticize the ACLU board and staff."
Another said board members "should refrain from publicly highlighting" any disagreement with the organization's policies, in part because public dissent could hurt the ACLU's "public support and fund-raising."
The ACLU continues to move away from libertarian ideals (reclinating back to where it began as an apologist for communism and defender of illegal aliens) based on individual freedom of action and toward a position of partisan advocacy for far left causes. The organization's leadership will inevitably have to force consensus as it's positions become less universal in nature.
Contradictions with its mission statement, which reads "To defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States," are going to lead to internal dissent. As an empirical rightist, I sympathize with Mr. Glasser (longtime head of the ACLU) and crew--as I feel Republican leadership has turned its back on Burkean values, so do ACLU atomists feel the organization has become the backer of various special interests rather than of individual freedom.
A non-comprehensive list of positions the ACLU has taken in recent years that are not in line with their raison d'etre (in addition to pushing out free expression within the organization's own ranks):
- Opposition to the MinuteMen. The Arizona chapter of the organization has tried unsuccessfully to catch the citizen's group misbehaving. It has also worked with illegal crossers to help them avoid detection by the MinuteMen. One should expect the ACLU to take up the cause of a citizen's group protesting the conduct of the federal government.
- While defending the hateful speech of men like Al-Arian, things change when the target isn't middle class America:
Mr. Romero said it was not unusual for the A.C.L.U. to grapple with conflicting issues involving civil liberties. "Take hate speech," he said. "While believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities."All speech is equal, but some speech is more equal than other speech.
- Opposition to the free action of employers to make business decisions as they see fit. The ACLU wishes to restrict the rights of private entities to conduct standard business operations (background checks, citizenship status, etc). That is, the organization favors governmental interence in the rights of private entities.
- Very narrow interpretation of the second amendment, foregoing ambiguity in favor of governmental regulation over the possession of firearms among the private citizenry.
- Opposition to the publication of information by school boards that is unfavorable or ambivalent toward a position favoring contraceptives over abstinence.
- Opposition to private charities offering cash for voluntary sterilization of drug-addicted women (I am a supporter of Project Prevention). Such a transaction is more certainly the result of two individual entities coming to a mutally agreeable decision than say, the right to privacy when the father objects to the mother's choice.
- Refusing the right to parental notification while defending the activities of NAMBLA. That is, in some cases the right of the child trumps the right of an adult (abortion decisions), while in others the right of the adult trumps the right of the child (the forcible rape of children).