Posts Tagged ‘ACLU’

Free speech roundup

  • “And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.” — Scalia, J., noting the commonness of violence in youthful entertainment over the centuries, in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2005), his landmark opinion confirming full First Amendment protection for videogames as works of expression [Jim Copland/City Journal, Owen Good/Polygon; contrasting Hillary Clinton position]
  • Scalia made crucial fifth vote for many First Amendment liberties. Which ones are safe now? [Ronald Collins first, second posts]
  • Wisconsin redux? Montana ethics official targets political adversaries with subpoenas [Will Swaim, Reason]
  • Goaded by governments, Facebook now has big program in Europe “finding and then removing comments that promote xenophobia.” [Independent, U.K.] Sad to see Israeli official backing legal curbs on freedom of social media [Times of Israel]
  • “Flemming Rose talks about the decision to publish 12 cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.” [“Free Thoughts” podcast with Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, Cato’s]
  • 2016 workplan from ACLU doesn’t include free speech as a main concern, and some aren’t surprised by that [Ronald Collins]
  • “Appeals Court Tells City It Can’t Use Its Terribly-Written Zoning Laws To Censor Speech” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Fourth Circuit, Norfolk, Va.]

Campus climate roundup

  • “What student protestors should learn from bygone free speech fights” [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • You’d expect Oberlin students to have some of the very best demands and you won’t be disappointed [Blake Neff/Daily Caller, my earlier Storify on student demands around the country] “Soon enough, microaggression monitoring was on the table” at Occidental College, and secret snitches will help [Scott Greenfield] President of Washington, D.C.’s American University responds to student demands. tl;dr version: “How high?
  • Diversity means cracking down on religious colleges that discriminate based on church dogma. Right? [Scott Greenfield] Human Rights Campaign huffs and puffs about (perfectly legal) religious-college Title IX exemptions [Washington Post, HRC] Canadian judge: B.C. provincial law society wrongly barred accreditation for conservative Christian law school [Globe and Mail, earlier]
  • Just out: “Free Speech on College Campuses” issue of Cato Unbound leads with Greg Lukianoff (“Campus Free Speech Has Been in Trouble for a Long Time”), with responses to follow from Eric Posner and Catherine Ross;
  • The year in campus hysteria [Ashe Schow/Examiner]
  • Feds’ diversity bureaucracy has engaged in epic power grab in past couple of years, Congress’s omnibus spending bill rewards them with 7 percent funding hike [PowerLine, Bader and earlier, Schow/Examiner]
  • “ACLU Silence Enables Campus Anti-free Speech Movement” [Nat Hentoff; related, Emily Ekins]

July 8 roundup

The ACLU “evolves” on speech rights

In McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme Court will reconsider its 2000 decision in Hill v. Colorado, which upheld a law prohibiting (among other things) leafleting and some other forms of peaceful protest within 100 feet of an abortion facility. (Massachusetts in 2007 passed a similar law which is now under challenge.) Noted civil libertarian Floyd Abrams, writing in the WSJ, sees the case as a straightforward one of supporting free speech for a position with which he happens to disagree. But the ACLU, Abrams notes, has changed its position between the earlier case and this one, and in a speech-unfriendly direction:

In a friend-of-the-court brief in Hill, the ACLU argued that because the Colorado statute “burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to accomplish the state’s goal,” the statute was facially unconstitutional. When the 2007 statute was proposed in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts ACLU opposed it, stating that “[i]f the message is unwelcome, as it often will be outside abortion clinics, the constitutionally appropriate response in a public forum is for the listener to walk away.”

But now that McCullen has reached the Supreme Court, both ACLU groups have switched sides. Their position, their brief states, has “evolved over time” and the Massachusetts law is, after all, constitutional on its face. Of course, the First Amendment has not changed in the 14 years between the filing of the ACLU briefs in Hill and McCullen; the ACLU has.

The old ACLU got it right.

P.S. More from Jonathan Adler. And the Cato Institute filed this amicus brief in the case of McCullen v. Coakley.

Med-mal meets Culture War: ACLU sues bishops over abortion policy

“The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal action against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, alleging that its ethical guidelines given to Catholic hospitals resulted in negligent care for a miscarrying woman.” The suit, in the name of a Muskegon, Mich. woman who allegedly experienced pain and suffering by not being advised at once to abort a doomed fetus, also names as defendants three individuals who have chaired a church-affiliated body by the name of Catholic Health Ministries. The suit does not however name as a defendant Mercy Health Partners, where plaintiff Tamesha Means was treated, nor does either the Bishops’ Conference nor CHM own Mercy. So what’s the legal theory? Well, the bishops issued ethical guidelines they expected Catholic-affiliated hospitals to follow, and CHM acted as Mercy’s “Catholic sponsor” vouching for its compliance with those guidelines. So maybe the theory consists of “incitement to commit malpractice.” Is it rude to point out that the law recognizes no tort of that sort? [ABA Journal, MLive, Alex Stein/Bill of Health (background on Michigan med-mal law)] See also: Seth Lipsky, N.Y. Post (“astounding” suit menaces defendants for hewing to their view of spiritual truths).

ACLU on wrong side of wedding photographer case

I’ve got a new post at Cato asking how that could have come to be. Earlier on Elane Photography v. Willock here, here, etc.

Reacting to my Cato post, a couple of readers have responded, in effect: Isn’t the ACLU just a doctrinaire Left-liberal organization these days, rather than a bulwark of civil liberties? To which my answer is: I’d describe it as an organization with lively internal divisions, some factions of which push it in a doctrinaire Left direction, others of which want it to be more of a robust civil liberties organization. (As witness last year’s “Mayors vs. Chick-Fil-A” controversy, in which the ACLU of Illinois took a strong and clear civil libertarian stand while the ACLU of Massachusetts seemed to lean more toward a doctrinaire-Left position.) Some speak ironically of the “civil liberties caucus” that soldiers on thanklessly within the ACLU. I want to encourage that caucus and let it know it is appreciated. (& Stephen Richer/Purple Elephant, Coyote).

Keep prosecuting until they get the result they want?

As I mentioned in my CNN piece on Friday, various voices are calling for the federal prosecution of George Zimmerman following his acquittal on state-court charges [commentary about that: Jonathan Adler, Jacob Sullum, Steve Chapman, Eugene Volokh; see also the update to my Friday post regarding the possibility of “hate crime” charges] In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) takes the view that a federal prosecution would be improper double jeopardy, implicitly rebuking its own executive director, Anthony Romero, who had suggested otherwise in early comments to the press following the verdict [TalkLeft (“the organization came to its senses”), Politico, text of letter from Laura Murphy, director of ACLU Washington Office, PDF; see also David Bernstein]

As I noted in my CNN piece, the exception for “dual sovereignty” prosecutions arose in a 1959 Supreme Court case called Bartkus v. Illinois, decided 5-4, in which the dissenters were the four liberals: Earl Warren, William Douglas, Hugo Black and William Brennan. Here are a few things that Hugo Black had to say in his dissent, joined by Douglas and Warren: “Fear and abhorrence of governmental power to try people twice for the same conduct is one of the oldest ideas found in western civilization,” one that did not disappear “even in the Dark Ages.” And “retrials after acquittal have been considered particularly obnoxious, worse even, in the eyes of many, than retrials after conviction.” In short, “double prosecutions for the same offense” are “contrary to the spirit of our free country.” (& welcome Instapundit, InsiderOnline readers)

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