What Is The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)?

By Aaron Brophy 1/30/17 | www.samaritanmag.com

ACLU's message on social media on the evening of Jan. 28 — graphic via official ACLU Twitter
As new U.S. President Donald Trump continues to systematically dismantle the United States Constitution, one organization has emerged to defend the supreme set of American laws established 227 years-and-counting ago — the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

A non-profit, non-partisan legal organization, the ACLU has a staff of roughly 200 lawyers and an additional 2,000 volunteer legal staff dedicated to conserving "America's original civic values — the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — and defend the rights of every man, woman and child in this country."

Defending the rights of people has put the ACLU on the frontline of the battle to, well, strip people of their constitutional protections. It was the ACLU's lawyers who responded this past weekend to get judges to rule against Trump's controversial "Muslim ban." These legal actions have dramatically raised the ACLU's profile in the last few days and the organization isn't resting on the laurels of its first modest victory.

"Tonight was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, one that demonstrates that the people united will never be divided," wrote Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, in a blog post about the legal win to stop the Muslim ban. "This is only the beginning. This is merely the first skirmish in a long battle to vigorously defend the Bill of Rights from the authoritarian designs of the Trump administration.

"Savor this victory tonight, but prepare to fight on."

The American people have taken notice.

The organization told CNN last night that it had received $24,164,691 USD ($31,675,077 CDN) in donations from 356,306 separate donors over the weekend. The organization usually averages $4 million USD ($5,243,200.00 CDN) in donations for an entire year.

Rideshare company Lyft was just one of the many businesses stepping up to fund the lawyers who defend citizens' rights.

"We stand with you, and are donating $1,000,000 over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution," said the company in a statement.

Founded in 1920, the ACLU actively tackles issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance and censorship in the courtroom. The organization advocated on behalf of Japanese-Americans forced into interment camps in 1942, fought for school desegregation in 1954, and helped get abortion decriminalized in 1973. The organization doesn't just take on "social justice" leaning issues either. Controversially, they've also defended organizations like NAMBLA to ensure they received fair representation.

The ALCU summarizes its purpose in three key points:

* We protect American values. In many ways, the ACLU is the nation's most conservative organization. Our job is to conserve America's original civic values - the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - and defend the rights of every man, woman and child in this country.

* We're not anti-anything. The only things we fight are attempts to take away or limit your civil liberties, like your right to practice any religion you want (or none at all); or to decide in private whether or not to have a child; or to speak out — for or against — anything at all; or to be treated with equality and fairness, no matter who you are.

* We're there for you. Rich or poor, straight or gay, black or white or brown, urban or rural, pious or atheist, American-born or foreign-born, able-bodied or living with a disability. Every person in this country should have the same basic rights. And since our founding in 1920, we've been working hard to make sure no one takes them away.

Perhaps most useful to citizens in the coming days is the ACLU's practical "Know Your Rights" section on its website. There are tips on what one's rights are if they're stopped by police, if your rights are violated at a protest or demonstration, if you experience voter intimidation, as well as any number of other dangerous scenarios.

Watch the ACLU's "Stand Up. Fight Back" video:

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