Normally, I'd defer from writing political stuff on Christmas day, but since the ACLU apparently doesn't believe in celebrating Christmas, I figured I'd post this just so they'd have something to talk about while everyone else is celebrating the holiday.
Last week, I wrote about the ACLU's abuse of its own members' privacy. Apparently this triggered something in John A. Kalb's mind, because he wrote his own piece about the ACLU, where he uncovered their outright lies and perversion of the Constitution. (And no, I'm not going to give away his scoop; go see it for yourself.)
John's piece got me thinking. The American Civil Liberties Union proclaims itself as... oh, never mind. I'll just use their own words, from their own website:
The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty. We work daily in courts, legislatures and communities 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. Our job is to conserve America's original civic values - the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Hm. Pretty lofty goals and chock full of patriotic determination. But just how well do they do that? Inspired by John, I figured I'd actually take a look at the Bill Of Rights and see just how well they fulfill their self-appointed task.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first freedom mentioned, despite what you may read elsewhere, is freedom of religion. It is divided into two parts; the "establishment" clause and the "free exercise" clause. This means that the government can neither declare one religion as the "official" religion of the nation, nor can it prevent people from worshipping as they will.
It has been my observation that the ACLU takes both clauses very seriously, but holds double standards. It seems to them that the "establishment" clause was written strictly for Christianity, which means that anything stronger than a vague, distasteful tolerance from the government towards Christianity must be fought most rigorously and strenuously. On the other hand, pretty much any other religion must be protected equally fiercely, no matter the practice being challenged by the government. (The religious use of illegal drugs and the slaughter of animal sacrifices come to mind.)
I haven't really noticed the ACLU taking sides in cases regarding Judaism. I suspect it's because the Jews tend to take a laissez-faire attitude towards that sort of thing (one of my favorite oxymorons is "evangelical Jew") and historically, Jews have been more concerned with others' REAL civil rights issues than their own.
The second part of the First Amendment covers freedom of speech and the press. Here the ACLU devotes a great deal of its efforts. The principle here seems to be "anything goes." The ACLU, it appears, believes that any restrictions on free speech -- such as obscenity, libel and slander, incitement to violence, sedition, and so on -- are unconstitutional.
The third right is the right of assembly. Here again they seem to take an absolute position. But it seems to me that they forget the word "peacably." They have frequently opposed the government in cases where the government acted to stop or prevent violence from breaking out, and defended those with rioting or inciting riots.
The final right in the First Amendment is the right to seek redress of grievances. Again, here the ACLU seems to read what it wants into the actual words. The exact phrasing says "petition the Government for a redress of grievances." We are guaranteed the right to ASK for redress. But much like the Declaration of Independence, which guarantees us the right to pursue happiness, there is no promise of success. We can demand an answer from the government if we feel we have been wronged, but that answer can be "no."
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
I've never forgiven the Founding Fathers for this amendment. It is just too poorly written. Equally strong cases can be made for each side -- this could refer to individual people, or it could refer to the states' National Guards.
The ACLU takes a position on this amendment that is in stark contrast to its stance on every single other right. It is the studied opinion of the ACLU that the right to bear arms is not an individual right, but a "collective" right, and refuses to take cases that are based on an individual's wanting to exercise their rights. I can't seem to find a single other instance where the ACLU uses the "collective right" argument and sides against "individuals."
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
This amendment has become, over time, probably the silliest and least relevant of the Bill Of Rights. The "Quartering" of British troops in private homes was an odious practice, and certainly should have been condemned and prohibited, but I really don't think it merited its own Amendment. Accordingly, I don't believe the ACLU has ever spoken or acted in regards to it. So they get a pass on this one.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Here again the ACLU takes an absolutist stance. They seem determined to stretch the definitions of "unreasonable" and "probable cause" to put near-impossible constraints on law enforcement officials. Nearly every search and seizure is presumed "unreasonable" until proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and "probable cause" is held to an equally nigh-impossible standard.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
This amendment can be boiled down to the following rights: grand jury, no double jeopardy, no compulsory self-incrimination, due process, compensation from taking. The two parts that the ACLU puts most of its efforts into are those regarding self-incrimination and due process.
Here again the ACLU is stretching the definitions of words to the breaking point. To the ACLU, virtually anything the government does to obtain a confession of guilt is considered "compelling." Understandably, threats of violence or other forms of punishment for failing to cooperate are anathema to any civilized person. But the ACLU has taken steps to suppress confessions where the authorities use such tactics as feigned sympathy for the criminal, appeals to conscience or religious faith, catered to their twisted beliefs, or misled them into thinking the police already had all the proof they needed. That isn't "compulsion," that's simple justice.
They also have a fixation on "due process" that borders on the monomaniacal. They have forced our legal system into a complex, even labyrinthine maze of "due process," and on that path towards justice the slightest misstep can (and often does) result in the whole process being jettisoned and the guilty walking free. The principle, they say, is to give the government enough incentive to make sure that "due process" is filed, but it seems to me that when a criminal is set free because some clerk somewhere put a "6" instead of a "7" on page 53 of some legal document, the "government" isn't being punished for the error -- those of us who have to worry about being that criminal's next victim are suffering.
OK, that's the first half of the Bill Of Rights. Later, I'll tackle the last five.