What is the ACLU?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
The ACLU works to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
The ACLU works to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a New York City based non-profit organization which aims to protect people in the United States from civil rights violations. Since the organization is involved in over 6,000 cases each year, it often finds itself defending controversial or unpopular views. The ACLU believes that protecting Constitutional rights is very important, and it hires 300 permanent staff in all 50 states. In addition, the work of the ACLU is supplemented by large numbers of interns and volunteers, including attorneys who offer their services free of charge.

The ACLU works to protect the rights of women.
The ACLU works to protect the rights of women.

The origins of the ACLU can be found in 1915, when the American Union Against Militarism was founded. In 1917, the organization started the American Civil Liberties Bureau to protect conscientious objectors to the First World War. Roger Nash Baldwin was placed at the head of the organization, which later split off from its parent due to concerns about potentially illegal activities. Baldwin was hounded by the government, which used the Espionage Act to attempt to restrict his free speech rights. In 1920, the Bureau was formally reorganized into the ACLU.

The ACLU seeks to protect the civil rights of individuals with various mental and intellectual disabilities.
The ACLU seeks to protect the civil rights of individuals with various mental and intellectual disabilities.

Some people are unaware that the ACLU attempts to be politically neutral. The organization is just as likely to defend the Ku Klux Klan as it is to lobby for the desegregation of schools. In fact, the ACLU often has multiple cases which appear to conflict going on at the same time. Because the ACLU defends and assists people with a wide variety of viewpoints, many people on both the left and right criticize the actions of the organization. The ACLU brings suit in the form of test cases and also assists people with ongoing cases.

Three issues are extremely important to the ACLU. The first is the freedom of expression which is offered to all Americans through the Bill of Rights. The second is equality before the law, and the third is due process of law for all Americans. The ACLU is also concerned with the right to privacy, and this became a major issue in the 2000s when the American government passed several pieces of controversial legislation which undermined this right.

Because several groups within the United States are consistently marginalized, the ACLU has a number of ongoing projects which focus on these populations. These projects include a focus on the poor, people with disabilities, women, minorities, mental health patients, immigrants, prisoners, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community. In addition, the ACLU focuses on several recurring issues including racial segregation, reproductive freedom, and voting rights. The ACLU believes that speaking up for marginalized communities helps to preserve rights for all Americans.

The ACLU has been involved in a number of cases, including the Scopes Monkey Trial, Roe vs. Wade, and Brown vs. The Board of Education. The organization continues to advocate for Americans who believe that their rights have been violated, and it is supported by over 400,000 members, as well as grants from private organizations. Americans who think that they may need the services of the ACLU should contact a local chapter of the organization.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


The ACLU are dyed in the wool communists who masquerade as civil liberties watchdogs. Their founder even wrote a book of his love for communism. They control the language in arguments to make it sound like they are watching out for constitutional rights. They punish the religious, especially Christians, represent child molesters pro bono, and many other heinous things. They should be dissolved as an organization.


The ACLU doesn't do anything to protect civil rights other than give out phone numbers that don't work. The organization needs to be revamped, and they don't care about hate crimes, discrimination or civil liberties at all. I know this from personal experience.


The ACLU wants to shut out God and take away our religious rights. They would probably close the churches and force atheism down our throats. Take a stand and fight the ACLU. Stand for Jesus Christ, the man who paid for our sins.


From what I've researched, it looks to me that ACLU could care less about Christians, and it's going to get worse down the road; just wait and see. God help us all.


How long are we going to let this go on? The ACLU is made up of a bunch of atheists. Their sole purpose is to do away with God. Can't you see what has happened to our country since they took God out of our schools and are trying to take him out of our country? Our kids can no longer say the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag or pray. How long are we not going to stand up for our country and its people?


I am disgusted and sickened by this group. ACLU should stand for Anti Christian Lawyers Unite!


If the ACLU is defending my rights, I'd hate to have them in my corner. They have done more to destroy the moral and religious fiber of this county by simply bending, twisting and stretching the constitution to the max. They have been very fortunate to have a extremely liberal supreme court to back them. For the time being they are pretty much frozen because the court leans right. Thank God!


The ACLU does not assist the minority. Take the American Indians, for example. If the ACLU were to assist these poor, oppressed people, who were subjected to genocide, suffering and death by the U.S. government, they would have payment for what was stolen.

Nowhere on earth is there a group of people identified by their race, by being placed on reservations, having everything taken away, and be the "lowest on the totem pole." The first true Americans, but the least respected.

Maybe that's why Jesus said to enter heaven, you who think you are first, will be last, and you who are least, will be first.

I feel that the ACLU should be called: Anti-Christian and Liberties Union. If you believe in God, don't contact them!


texas Outlaw: If the aclu went belly up and ceased to exist, it would be one more step in keeping individual freedom in America. What is sad is that you are able to benefit from this same freedom, yet you attempt to destroy it. I don't belong to any organization, unlike you, so i make my own decisions as to what is moral or not.

The aclu is not a moral organization with the good of the people of America in mind. i oppose you and your ideas, and will continue to do so as an American with freedoms and obligations that no other country allows. i agree with all who critcize America, it is not perfect, but it is better than anything else on this earth and anything else that has been attempted: russia, china, cuba, europe. Thanks for not listening to me.


I agree with the fact that the ACLU needs to pick a side. You cannot straddle a fence. And the ACLU is slowly taking rights away from the Christian people who founded this country. I say if you are not a Christian and you don't like the use of the word God, then leave this country! Go back to where you came from and leave us Christians alone!


The aclu is not treating all equally. They have made no effort to find out what the people are or want. They are only following their personal wants. They sincerely disappointed many people by their selfish agenda. People in this country have the right to their opinion but they take it too far.

Because of their actions I will no longer respect or trust them -- ever! We need the word of God in our lives and for them to want to remove the military headstones' crosses who are the very people who helped to make it possible for them to act as the selfish group of people they are just goes to show us that we all have rights, but it also becomes the selfish group's responsibility to use our rights in a responsible way. It truly surprises and disappoints me to see them so blind.


All you aclu people need to find your own little island and make up all your stupid ideas there. Why don't we have the right to use the word God? I would be careful how hard you push us God loving Christians with these outrageous ideas. We fought in the wars and we should have the right to pray. Get a life and try to do some positive in the world, not just show your ignorance.


If the aclu fights for both sides, why don't they just conserve their time and efforts and do nothing. It's like pushing and pulling at the same time!


We need the A.C.L.U. To keep "tilting at windmills". We are a nation of many cultures and religions. The A.C.L.U. protects the minority as well as the majority.


I am sickened by what is happening to our country! President Reagan said if we take "one nation under God" out of our Pledge of Allegiance we will be "one nation gone under"!

I think the aclu (no caps on purpose!) is going too far by taking God out of everything our nation stands for and was founded on! When do we as U.S. citizens get a say in what happens to our country?

It's not just the people that have posted something here who are upset - it's everyone I talk to! If we aren't careful, we'll have another civil war! Is that what Washington and the aclu want?


In reading these comments I realized something I have always known in my heart. Most religious people hide behind God and faith. Keep this in mind christians, muslims or any other religion: ignorance and faith can go hand in hand, even if you think you're defending your God.

The ACLU defends your rights to pray and worship. It also defends another's right to not pray and to not believe in God. Take a good hard look into the history of your religion- want to bet you find oppression?


People who want to tear down our religion of Christ and remove any sign or talk of him are just scared. They know there is a God. They know who he is and what his power is. Inside of them they know that Christianity is the right path, but are intimidated by him. They know this because he is their creator. But they are blinded and scared and put up walls of atheism, buddhism and even islam to hide him away.


Forget the ACLU. They think they are helping this country but instead they are doing Satan's biding. They are Satan lovers. Let them tell my convoy in Iraq we can't say a prayer before we go out on the streets of this hell hole. Some people don't deserve freedom that I fight for.


As a military brat, sister, wife, mother and now grandmother, I am appalled by the actions of the aclu (I won't dignify them with capital letters). We must fight back before all our rights are subverted.


Sorry Mr. Geek but you aren't too wise. The very organization which works to stiffen the powers and rights that be, takes away the very fundamental rights of this nation which is one nation under God.

The very thing which made this nation what it is is being castrated and restrained into such a point that servicemen and women have to literally be shot first in order to shoot back. Talking about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I'd hope that one of those volunteer communists would some day decide to do something positive for this country and pick up a gun and go to some foreign country and test their very policy of political correctness and pat the enemy with firm words and kitten gloves.


Better to live life as if there is a God then die and find out there isn't, than to live life with no God and die and find out there is. Merry Christmas -- and God Bless.


Who does the ACLU think they are taking prayer out of schools, remove the military headstone crosses off those who died for this country and take Jesus' name out of prayer in the military? They are trying to remove all traces of of our mighty God around the world! We have just as much right to keep prayer,crosses and the name of Jesus as they say they have rights! This is God's country and as Christians we must fight back and not let them push their way into our lives. We are day by day letting satan get a bigger foot hold in the lives of our children! At one of our local high schools our children get together every morning at the flag pole and pray. It is our right to do that. They might think they can charge our teachers criminally but our children our free to do as they please and as parents we must teach them to be bold in the Lord.


Maybe it's time for the A.C.L.U. to do away with itself. What is there to fear about crosses in a national cemetery or any place else?


the people in washington have gone and lost their minds. it is funny how people forget about 9/11, how all of America was coming together and praying to God. God was talked about every day then and no one said get rid of him then. whoever came up with getting rid of these crosses, needs to be sent to war without any protection and see then who they turn to. they gave their lives for that cross, for God, for us, for you. do you have no raising or love in your heart or soul? if people that are here in America now need to know that God was here first, my pastor said one time can you feel the wind, yes you can, but you cannot see it even though it has a name, wind. it has been here since the beginning of time, right? well, guess what? so has God, and how long have all the crosses been here? go look at them and put yourself in that person's shoes who is lying in that grave, or just stop and ask someone who is visiting those crosses what they stand for. come on people, wake up!


The more all these kinds of people tear down and take away God the more I know they believe in him or they wouldn't be so afraid of him. Isn't it amazing that all other religions seem to have all the freedoms they want in America? I believe in God, and if others want to believe in something different that's their right but leave my religion alone.


Yes I would like to know the truth to this. If this is in fact the truth that they want to take Jesus' name out of school and military, I believe they will be damned. It is our right as human beings to speak out against this and we need to stand together as God is looking for great faith. The Bible says do not faint, we need to continue to step forward and press on and if this means to stand against the unbelievers then we stand united together to believe in the God Almighty, Jehovah, the Alpha and Omega, Lord most high. God bless and pray for the unbelievers as there are miracles that take place.


I can't believe what I just read. checked it out and it's true. check yourself. Number 9 answered that the ACLU helps to get rid of bad cops. Where is this person living at? Hello!

The ACLU filed suit to have all military cross-shaped headstones removed, plus to end prayer from the military completely. What the he-- is going on with this country?


I am so disgusted with the ACLU. With all that is going wrong in this world, money and resources are being used to fight whether or not a *cross* is offending someone. Why don't you use your resources to fight for something that would be beneficial to mankind.?


I received an e-mail from my aunt. I villainized the ACLU for bringing suit against the US armed forces because of their wide spread practice of prayer and the mention of God. I find it strange that they don't realize that the rights they have to worship are the same rights the ACLU is fighting to protect.


I think the ACLU is a subversive group that goes after religions, but more so, the Christians. They do not want God, Jesus, the Bible, or Church(es) in view of the public. And why do they defend the complaint of one (1) individual against a religious group or organization? And it is always someone that is far and away removed from that entity. i.e., an atheist or agnostic? Does he have more right as an individual that the collective?


Let me get this right, the ACLU is to protect our Bill of Rights? How can they deny the freedom of religion? Freedom of Speech? If I'm not mistaken those are two issues in the First Amendment. The ACLU is going against our First Amendment rights in the name of justice? How can that be? Well, I guess they aren't who they say they are. the American people have been 'duped' quite a bit lately. I don't think they can get away with this. We, as Americans, must stand up for ourselves. our forefathers fought for these rights, they have worked for many years, until we allowed idiots to come in and take away our rights. Wake up America!


Fighting for our Constitutional rights? B.S.! We should have special prayer groups focus on making them go away


They are helping to turn this country into a socialist and then communist nation. This latest episode with members saying a prayer before dinner on school property is so disgusting. Our freedoms are being stripped away from us, stomped on while we wonder why our young people have no respect for anyone. Has anyone read the 94th psalm lately? It applies to our country and government now as is? Anon


Why are you answering your own questions?

i agree with a lot of what you're saying, but the ACLU does a lot of good things to stop crooked cops too.


I wounder if it is possible to do away with the ACLU? They do not represent me or my family. I would like to see prayer put back in public school. They continue to take God out of everything! Now they are going after talk radio! Does anyone know how to stop this?


They want to remove a cross in the Mojave desert that has been a memorial since 1934 for the fallen soldiers in World War I. I saw this and verified it on Snopes. I cannot believe that anyone in the ACLU would stoop so low, but they have. All I can do is pray for them, because their souls are in great jeopardy. They are not for civil liberties. They want to cause grief and wreak havoc whenever and wherever they can.


I think it's up to the military and those particular families. The ACLU just wants to keep taking away my rights!


They are taking away *my* rights. The ACLU contradicts itself. No wonder our country is such a mess. They seem to fight for the wrong reasons, not the right ones. It's always about taking away from one sect because the other one doesn't believe in that particular cause, etc. What about my rights?


Good Question Anon, I would like to know the same thing. It angers me to think that that the ACLU would want to take the name of Jesus out of any prayer. May it be in schools, events, or with our military. I hope that this is a joke.


is it true???What is the reason behind it??


Is it true that the ACLU wants to remove the military headstone crosses off those who died for this country and take Jesus' name out of prayer in the military?

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    • The ACLU works to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
      The ACLU works to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
    • The ACLU works to protect the rights of women.
      The ACLU works to protect the rights of women.
    • The ACLU seeks to protect the civil rights of individuals with various mental and intellectual disabilities.
      The ACLU seeks to protect the civil rights of individuals with various mental and intellectual disabilities.