Premium

What the Hell Happened to the ACLU?

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) used to be an organization that fought for the rights of the little guy. It was serious about safeguarding the rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, lawyers working with the group went so far as to work to protect the First Amendment rights of Nazis who wished to stage a demonstration in Skokie, Illinois.

To put it simply, the ACLU used to have principles that it defended regardless of whether it angered people on the left or the right. However, over the years, the organization has become less about protecting rights and more concerned with pushing progressivism.

The group recently penned an op-ed for The New York Times in which it defended mask and vaccine mandates. It argued that “far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties.” The author also insisted:

They protect the most vulnerable, people with disabilities and fragile immune systems, children too young to be vaccinated, and communities of color hit hard by the disease.

The authors also contended that mandatory vaccinations are a “justifiable intrusion on autonomy and bodily integrity” and said “the fundamental right to bodily integrity is not ‘absolute’” and does “not include the right to inflict harm on others.”

As you can imagine, the ACLU’s vigorous defense of mandatory vaccines raised quite a few eyebrows. Many high-profile individuals – especially on the right – castigated the group for supporting the forced injection of a hastily-developed vaccination on Americans.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald – who is no conservative – reacted by rightly pointing out that the piece resembles an “NSA official justifying the need for mass surveillance,” and brought up a rather interesting reality: The ACLU has publicly opposed mandatory vaccines in the past.

In an article written on his Substack page, he noted that the ACLU once “warned of the grave dangers of the very mindset it is now pushing.” He explained:

In 2008, the ACLU published a comprehensive report on pandemics which had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics.

The report cautioned:

Not all public health interventions have been benign or beneficial, however. Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have encouraged abuses of state power. Atrocities, large and small, have been committed in the name of protecting the public’s health.

Greenwald continued, explaining:

The [ACLU] report was critical of forced vaccinations and other mandates in prior outbreaks of smallpox — certainly a highly contagious and lethal disease — but then argued that when the disease reappeared in the late 1940s, New York City handled it much better by offering voluntary vaccines and education programs rather than coercive measures.

So what the hell happened to the ACLU?

It appears that the group has experienced a disturbing evolution. Yes, it was always aligned with so-called progressive movements, but it focused specifically on the protection of individual rights. Liberty Nation’s Joe Schaefer pointed out:

This was the “lean against entrenched power” phase for the group, and it worked exceptionally well back when that was all the rage in American leftism. Those days are decidedly over. The ACLU has discarded its oppositional pose to become a full-throated enthusiast for government overreach.

The fact of the matter is that the ACLU’s commitment to protecting rights has shifted – especially when it concerns political affiliation. The group fought for the rights of Japanese Americans who were locked in concentration camps. It also advocated for the First Amendment rights of a Ku Klux Klan leader and Westboro Baptist Church. The organization favored principle over party.

But now, this is not the case.

Now, the group seems only interested in protecting the rights that are favored by the hard left while ignoring those who oppose it. The Heritage Foundation observed:

By now, the ACLU’s retreat from the First Amendment is well documented.  It will not defend the First Amendment rights of pro-life pregnancy centers or small religious businesses.  It no longer defends religious freedom, although it once did. And in a leaked internal memo, the ACLU takes the position that free speech denigrating “marginalized groups” should not be defended.

The article also noted that the ACLU refused to uphold the rights of due process when it concerned allegations of sexual assault on college campuses. After the Obama administration altered Title IX rules to allow for the suspension of students accused of rape without due process, the organization had nothing to say about the matter. Why? Because the hard left opposes due process in these particular cases.

The ACLU has become an organization that sometimes gets it right but fails to live up to its stated principles more often than not. The group did criticize the Biden administration when it became clear that it was pressuring Big Tech companies to step up their censorship efforts against those with differing opinions on COVID-19 and the vaccines. However, in general, the organization has become yet another hard-leftist institution whose objective is to promote a so-called progressive agenda. In the end, it has become more about politics than principles.