American Civil Liberties Union Details

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, is a non-profit organization based in New York, NY. There are offices in every state of the United States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The organization comprises about 1.7 million members, 500 staff attorneys, and thousands of volunteer attorneys. These members advocate for various groups in society and seek to protect and extend civil rights through work in court cases as high up as the Supreme Court.

They also participate in federal advocacy for law and policy changes and work to keep society members informed of their rights. It encourages people to get involved in a variety of ways for a variety of causes—these range from signing petitions to getting involved in organized peaceful protests.

Throughout the ACLU's history, they have addressed a variety of issues. The issues range from capital punishment to freedom of speech, to rights for people of color, women, the LGBTGA2+ community, prisoners, immigrants, and people with disabilities. The ACLU accepts donations in support of its mission.

Real World Example of the American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU's history of anti-hate and anti-discrimination campaigns has been going on since the organization started. In 1942, although not widely supported at the time, the ACLU spoke out against the Japanese Internment Camps of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1954, the ACLU joined together with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to fight against racial segregation in schools, supporting the legal battle of Brown v. Board of Education.

Speaking of schools, in 1925, the ACLU partnered with high school biology teacher John T. Scopes to challenge a law in Tennessee that banned the teaching of evolution. The state eventually prosecuted Scopes, and the ACLU partnered with attorney Clarence Darrow to defend him. The trial made national headlines and helped influence the idea of academic freedom.

The organization's advocacy has also dealt with issues of security, censorship, and individual freedoms. In 1997, the ACLU engaged in a Supreme court case challenging the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which sought to censor the internet, encroaching on Freedom of Speech. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, the ACLU worked diligently to ensure that the government's policies addressing national security concerns did not create new freedom and civil liberty concerns. In 2009, adolescents' rights to privacy, particularly in a public school setting, were supported by the ACLU after a young girl was strip-searched solely based on a classmate's accusation. The Supreme Court ruled in the girl's favor; school officials violated her constitutional rights.

History of the American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU was founded in 1920 post-World War I. There was great concern that something similar to the Communist Revolution in Russia would overtake the United States. To address the fear that spread throughout the United States, the government attempted to assuage it by proactively searching for radicals who they believe put them at risk. They would then deport them, with no warrants, and in most cases, no proof.

This blatant disregard for civil rights prompted a small group of people to gather and take a stand against these actions. This group became known as the ACLU and has evolved throughout the last century, seeking social justice and addressing civil liberties issues current to the time.