2 things you disagree with the ACLU on, but probably shouldn’t

The ACLU (1) believes the possession of child pornography should not be criminalized and (2) supports the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United which ruled that corporate donations to political campaigns are protected acts of speech.

That might surprise you at first, but it won’t once you learn more. Let’s look at the two aforementioned examples:

  1. The Arizona chapter of the ACLU believes distribution of child pornography should be criminalized, but not possession. Imagine you’re a parent with a picture of your child. If possession is a crime, you could fall afoul of the law, which would put many parents unfairly at risk. Tackling distribution protects children without jeopardizing parents.
  2. The ACLU’s support for Citizens United is based on a firm resistance to any form of censorship. If you start limiting what constitutes speech, that distinction can creep over time to become more encompassing. The ACLU supports the decision, not because they want money in politic, but because they “do not support campaign finance regulation premised on the notion that the answer to money in politics is to ban political speech.” Instead the ACLU prefers to “expand, not limit, the resources available for political advocacy” and “supports a comprehensive and meaningful system of public financing that would help create a level playing field for every qualified candidate.” Admittedly, this decisions was much more controversial and you can read many opinions that are in disagreement with the ACLU.

These are two of the most controversial issues, if you look at the long list of causes the ACLU has supported over time most of them will seem much more clear cut to a modern reader.

So what does this mean?

The battle to protect civil liberties is ongoing and the ACLU is there to protect us from ourselves. As Yoda says, fear is the path to the dark side. When confronted with threats to our children or the sanctity of the political process, it is tempting to curb liberties in ways that, at the time, seem reasonable, but can have unintended and damaging consequences.

Threats to civil liberties often begin as a reaction to a threat, whether real or imagined. Congress would never pass a bill to authorizing the president to “Execute Any American without Due Process”, but it has inadvertently allowed something similar by permitting the executive to conduct drone strikes through various bits of legislation tied to the war on terror. In 2010, the ACLU brought suit against the Obama administration for executing an american citizen without due process. The citizen in question was a suspected terrorist living in Yemen; however, the evidence and process, used by the administration used to make such a determination was never made public.

Under previous administrations, it’s easy to believe that the president will exercise good judgement when exercising unchecked power. Under presidents like Trump, such unchecked power is terrifying. Part of what makes the current administration so terrifying is the creep of executive and governmental powers that threaten individual liberties which have been tolerated by a public that deeply fears terrorism. Thankfully, the ACLU works to protect us from our own fearful, misguided reactions, even when we, the people, aren’t paying attention.

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