ACLU’s Double Barrel Attack On Free Speech

Its Virginia local proudly announced that it filed an amicus brief in a case involving teachers in Loudoun County.

The ACLU of Virginia filed an amicus brief in the Loudoun County Circuit Court on behalf of ACLU Virginia, ACLU, Equality Virginia, Equality Loudoun, Side By Side, and He She Ze and We. The brief, filed on October 13, 2021, is in opposition to an emergency petition and preliminary injunction request filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf Mr. Cross and his fellow plaintiffs.

In Chicago, its Illinois chapter chose to take sides in the mayor’s battle to obtain a prior restraint against the police union president.

The ACLU of Illinois weighed in on the mayor’s side, calling Catanzara’s defiant directive a “breach of the public trust” that could have a disparate impact on communities of color.

“Police officers routinely initiate contact, including close contact, with residents across the city. These contacts are especially prevalent in Black and Brown neighborhoods across Chicago that are over-policed and where we see the most frequent use of traffic stops and stop and frisks,” the ACLU statement said.

These two positions have two things in common. They are both from the ACLU, the same organization that still feeds off its legacy by pretending that what it did in 1978 in Skokie has anything to do with what it does now. And they are both direct attacks on free speech, the very cause for which the legacy organization was once understood to exist, the idea that it desperately tries to perpetuate in the minds of journalists, the public and donors who want to believe they can be great supporters of civil rights by supporting the ACLU and still get the authoritarian outcomes they so desperately want because the ACLU says it’s okay.

To the predominant way of thinking on the left, being on the “right side” of a dispute is neither a disqualifier nor an impediment to being filled with civil righteousness. Of course they adore free speech, with the caveat that the free speakers are the good free speakers. And, to be fair to the ACLU, it remains effective in fighting for free speech. It just chooses not to fight unless the case is for free speech by one of its favored groups, or at worst, not free speech by bad people like Nazis in Skokie or white nationalists in Charlottesville.

The ACLU learned an important lesson after Charlottesville. Its own people were too woke, far too woke, to ever, under any circumstances, support civil rights for evil people. But far more importantly, its cash flow came from the unduly passionate, who lacked the capacity to grasp the idea of civil rights but were extremely good at knowing which side they were supposed to back. If the ACLU backed the side they like, oodles of money flowed in and they got to buy new curtains, hire more staff, enjoy a position of importance in the new world order and establish its position for the future of being a critical voice for the tribe.

That last bit, the one where the ACLU got to enjoy legacy credibility as the defenders of Skokie as they switched sides and learned to love the bomb, was the kicker.

One might expect that a civil liberties organization would take the view that compelled speech by teachers is a violation of free speech. After all, academic freedom used to matter. The right not to be forced to utter words because the government mandated it was viewed as a virtue. So why did the ACLU of Virginia side against academic freedom and in favor of compelled speech?

While the teachers may disagree with the policy, they do not have the right to violate it in their capacity as K-12 teachers in the Loudoun County school system. The policy protects trans and gender-expansive students from discrimination, and necessitates equal treatment of all students in Loudoun County. We know that discriminatory practices, such as the refusal to use a student’s gender-affirming pronouns, can exacerbate gender dysphoria and harm socio-emotional development during critical childhood years. Policy 8040 ensures that trans and non-binary students can focus on their education without the added stigmatization, stress and anxiety of being misgendered by their teachers.

Do you favor the policy? Do you agree that teachers’ refusal to use “gender-affirming pronouns” can be harmful to students’ “socio-emotional development”? That’s fine, and perhaps even laudable. But this isn’t the American Gender-Affirming Pronoun Union, even though that might be an easy mistake to make. After all, if you’re of the view that using children’s preferred pronouns is of vital importance, then this would be the side you support. And this being America, you are entitled to support it. And even the ACLU is entitled to support it, if that’s what it chooses to do. But then, it can’t simultaneously support it and claim to stand for civil liberties without being fundamentally hypocritical.

As for the Chicago dispute, the police union president’s anti-vax position is awful, but the right to express awful views is what free speech is there to protect. The rationalization is that the union stance harms “maginalized communities,” and aren’t they entitled to be free from discrimination? Of course, this chaos theory approach to rationalizations works well to strip civil rights from the bad side and always justify it because the good side might eventually suffer. But then, the issue is no longer about prior restraint or even free speech, but how well they can spin a yarn about its ultimate impact on the people they favor, which overcome any civil rights that get in the way.

Again, it’s fine, perhaps laudable, that a group take this position against a police union pushing against vaccinations by cops who will come into contact with people, many of whom will be black, and could cause them harm. All it takes is a failure to respect free speech. It’s not that the ACLU doesn’t get to back the side it prefers. It does. This is America. But it does not get to enjoy the legacy credibility of Skokie or be held out to the public as the legitmate voice of civil liberties. The ACLU has chosen its side and that side no longer is civil liberties unless it’s for the “right” people.

24 thoughts on “ACLU’s Double Barrel Attack On Free Speech

  1. Pedantic Grammar Police

    “it can’t simultaneously support it and claim to stand for civil liberties without being fundamentally hypocritical.”

    Can’t it? If you check the definition of “civil liberties” in today’s edition of your online Newspeak dictionary, you will see that it most certainly can.

      1. Pedantic Grammar Police

        Haven’t you heard? Old dictionaries are no longer approved for personal ownership and must be turned in to the Ministry of Truth posthaste.

  2. MwB

    By the ACLU’s logic, that is, if the ACLU’s preferred outcome determines when it supports free speech, they should actually support the union president. The ACLU is concerned with Black and Brown neighborhoods across Chicago being over-policed. The union president is not telling officers to not get vaccinated. He is telling them to not enter their vaccine status in the city database whether they are vaccinated or not. (For the unvaccinated who enter their status, it would require testing.) By defying the city vaccine database mandate, officers (like all city workers) would be placed on stay at home, no pay status. The union president predicts at least 50% of the force would be on stay at home status. Over-policing problem solved.

  3. JA

    The Chicago police union president has been vaccinated. He is not anti-vax, he is anti-vax-mandate. He has not, as far as I can tell, encouraged officers to refuse vaccination. Only to refuse to report their vaccination status to the department. That’s an important distinction, and conflating the two is a strategy much like the activist strategy of conflating opposition to compelled speech with support for racist/sexist/transphobic beliefs.

    The anti-vax vs anti-mandate distinction is particularly important in the context of free speech because it’s the difference between personal opinion on a matter of science and political speech on a matter of governmental policy. Of course both are protected, but the latter is foundational.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps it’s time to call them “the organization formerly known as the American Civil Liberties Union” or add an an asterisk “*for those we agree with” since truth in labeling is a social good.

  5. Rengit

    “Freedom from…” is a useful concept to kill “freedom of…”. The former invites government intervention to prevent people from exercising the latter.

  6. Maurice Ross

    The ACLU supports all civil rights not just free speech. And these are sometimes in conflict with each other. Equality rights are also civil rights. Using speech to discriminate against gay and trans people is not protected free speech. Academic freedom doesn’t give teachers the right to discriminate. And courts long ago held that fraud is not protected by free speech. The MAGA antivaxxers are engaging in willful fraud. That is not protected by the first amendment. Defamation is not protected by the first amendment nor is speech used for bullying or harassment. Anti vaxxers have every right to express opinions but can be appropriately penalized did willful dissemination of false facts. The ACLU is getting this balance right. It is not a left versus right issue unless conservatives no longer believe in facts and science.

    1. SHG Post author

      As they say, you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Those are some twisted facts and absurd leaps of ideological faiths that take you to baseless rationalizations. But if you believe hard enough, neither law nor logic will enable you to see beyond the excuses. Enjoy the Kool-Ade.

    2. Skink

      Did you really write this buncha slop to lawyers and judges, many of whom actually litigate the Constitution? That might be too fine a line–do you really expect that clownish noise to be taken seriously by this audience?

      Your punishment is to wash dishes in the Hotel kitchen. The machine is broken, but we’ll get you a toothbrush for the cleaning.

    3. Miles

      Wow, that’s an awful lot of insanely idiotic bullshit packed into one comment. The cop union is against mandates. What’s that got to do with MAGA anti-vaxers and fraud at all? Is that your prejudice showing or are you just a basic flaming nutjob?

      Straight kid demands teacher calls him “ze” and that’s discrimination? On what planet? There’s nothing discriminatory involved in refusing to let children force you to use their pretend words.

      But there is a first amendment, and you just murdered it to reach your crazy place and disgrace yourself to give cover to the ACLU. Well, done Maurice.

      1. SHG Post author

        When someone indulges in Billy Madison-level argumentation, is there really any expectation that facts or logic will clarify the error of their analysis? And if it’s not going to help, why do it?

        1. PseudonymousKid

          Because it hurts to see people be so dumb and there’s at least some minimal amount of hope that next time they will be the slightest bit less dumb.

          If you want me to give up on Jake, just say so, but he say’s he’s reading the posts now, which I think is progress.

    4. norahc

      I’m not a lawyer, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn last night, but even I know the ACLU does not support all civil liberties. It picks and chooses which ones to support based upon the donation tap of their supporters.

    5. cthulhu

      “Some people call me Maurice…but I speak like the pompous ass of law…” (with apologies to Steve Miller)

  7. Bryan Burroughs

    I’ll bite… The ACLU’s discrimination angle is stupid, but I wouldn’t be so quick to jump on the “compelled speech” angle either. Addressing students respectfully is reasonably part of the job requirements of being a teacher. We already “compell” teachers not to call students racial slurs, insults, or even “you little shits” (even when they are being little shits). Pronouns and preferred names, if a district so desires, is surely within the same vein of the currently acceptable “compelled speech” guidelines of “don’t be an asshole needlessly.” If you can stomach calling William “Billy” or John Robert “JR,” you can handle calling Tom “Sally.” A teacher isn’t making any meaningful statement beyond “you deserve to be respected the same as anyone else,” which is perfectly fine “compelled speech” in a classroom setting.

    Having said that, the ACLU still sucks

    1. SHG Post author

      “…is surely within the same vein…” “Surely” is not an argument. You can call William “Billy,” but you can also call him William. No one will force you to call him Billy, and no one would contend that calling him William is akin to racial slurs or discriminatory. Good effort, otherwise.

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