American Civil Liberties Union Debate and Poll
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fact 1

The mission of the ACLU is to assure that the Bill of Rights amendments to the Constitution that guard against unwarranted governmental control are preserved for each new generation. To understand the ACLU's purpose, it is important to distinguish between the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Constitution itself, whose bicentennial we celebrated in 1987, authorizes the government to act. The Bill of Rights limits that authority.

 

fact 2

The ACLU defends First Amendment rights: These include freedom of speech, association and assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, including the strict separation between church and state.

 

fact 3

The ACLU defends Equal protection of the law: The right to equal treatment regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, age, physical handicap, or other such classification. These rights apply to the voting booth, the classroom, the workplace and the courts.

 

fact 4

The ACLU defends Due process of law: The right to be treated fairly when facing criminal charges or other serious accusations that can result in such penalties as loss of employment, exclusion from school, denial of housing, or cut-off of benefits.

 

fact 5

The ACLU defends The right to privacy: The right to a guaranteed zone of personal privacy and autonomy which cannot be penetrated by the government or by other institutions, like employers, with substantial influence over an individual's rights.

 

fact 6

The ACLU supports expanding those protections: Although some segments of our population have traditionally been denied these rights, the ACLU works to extend protection to racial minorities, homosexuals, mental patients, prisoners, soldiers, children in the custody of the state, the handicapped, and Native Americans.

 

fact 7

Roger Baldwin founded the ACLU in 1920, civil liberties were in a sorry state. Citizens were sitting in jail for holding antiwar views. U.S. Attorney General Palmer was conducting raids upon aliens suspected of holding unorthodox opinions. Racial segregation was the law of the land and violence against blacks was routine. Sex discrimination was firmly institutionalized; it wasn't until 1920 that women even got the vote. Constitutional rights for homosexuals, the poor, prisoners, mental patients, and other special groups were literally unthinkable. And, perhaps most significantly, the Supreme Court had yet to uphold a single free speech claim under the First Amendment.

 

fact 8

The ACLU is frequently asked "Why did you defend that person or that group -- Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers?" The ACLU defends the _right_ of people to express their views, not the views that they express. And historically, the people whose opinions are the most controversial or extreme are those whose rights are most often threatened. Believing that once the government is empowered to violate one person's rights it can use that power against everyone, the ACLU works to stop the erosion of civil liberties before its too late.

 

PRO 9

The ACLU has fought censorship and fought for separation of church and state, civil rights for all, and free speech.

 

CON 10

The Aclu has been suspiciously quiet on Second Amendment Rights, a conservative issue.

 

fact 10.1

"The ACLU agrees with the Supreme Court's long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment [as set forth in the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller] that the individual's right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, there is no constitutional impediment to the regulation of firearms." If individual gun ownership is a question left open by the Constitution, then it is a question for Congress to decide.

 

CON 11

Anyone have a good argument as to why the ACLU thinks abortion is protected under the Bill of Rights? 

 

PRO 11.1

In 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses a pregnant woman's decision whether to bear a child or have an abortion. The ruling struck down state laws that had made the performance of an abortion a criminal act. The ACLU was and remains active in the courts to protect that right.

 

CON 12

Freedom of speech is suppressed on sidewalks all over the country. How can that be with the ACLU watch-dog making sure that our civil liberties are kept secure? Because there would be a conflict of interest. The ACLU has chosen to stand with mothers in their decision to end their children's lives if they so choose. I am a little confused as to how exactly this is a right protected by the Bill of Rights. The point at hand is Freedom of Speech. Right now in most cities, it is against the law to counsel women not to kill their pre-born children. 

 

PRO 12.1

The ACLU believes the Supreme Court's decision in Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York strikes a sensible balance between the First Amendment rights of protesters and the right of women to obtain reproductive health service free from harassment and intimidation. The Court upheld a "fixed 15 foot buffer zone" around clinic doorways, driveways, and parking lot entrances. At the same time, the Court struck down a "floating 15 foot buffer zone" that surrounded patients and staff entering and leaving the clinic. The Court's decision rests on a series of well-established constitutional principles. First, people have a right to express their views on the public streets. Second, the right to demonstrate in support of a cause does not include the right to break the law, or to harass and intimidate others seeking to exercise their rights. Third, demonstrators who engage in repeated acts of harassment, intimidation and trespass may be required to demonstrate outside a reasonable buffer zone. Fourth, any limitation on the right to demonstrate must be narrowly drawn and restrict no more speech than necessary. The decision upholding the "fixed 15 foot buffer zone" still leaves demonstrators free to picket, chant, pray and carry signs in full view of people entering and leaving the clinics. Conversely, the decision striking down the "floating 15 foot buffer zone" cannot and should not be read as an invitation to harass and intimidate clinic patients and staff once they are 15 feet away from the clinic doorway. Such conduct was, and remains, illegal.

 

 

 

 

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