Newsletter

The ACLU and the Fight For Our Constitution

When it was confirmed that the presidential nominee whose campaign promises snuffed the Constitution had indeed been elected, ACLU donations and new memberships suddenly poured in.

When President Trump was sworn in, and that day the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents regarding business conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause, the donations and new memberships surged.

When Trump promptly started enacting his campaign promises including the Muslim ban and the ACLU filed its constitutional challenge, the donations and new memberships crescendoed.

Now, with membership tripled to 1.2 million and over $80 million in new online contributions, the ACLU is reinforcing its state affiliates, hiring new litigators/advocacy professionals/support staff and expanding office space to accommodate them.

National is also strengthening the membership database system and launching a grassroots mobilization plan. As always, the bulk of the money will go to program — the ACLU ratio is 86% program and 14% management including fund-raising.

The ACLU has lawsuits in the works to challenge attempts to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. Other suits will confront discrimination by federal employees and agencies targeting LGBT equality and reproductive rights under the color of religious freedom. The ACLU stands vigilant and primed to fight any violation of the liberties and rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

As a vital addition to sustained litigation, the ACLU is constructing a nationwide platform for grassroots mobilization to oppose Trump’s attacks on civil liberties. The program will enlist and engage members in all affiliates to partner with national in lobbying activities, town hall advocacy, acts of organized protest, and other calls to action.

The platform, People Power, is being shaped and erected by digital organizers who worked in the White House, the Bernie Sanders campaign, and other leading activist groups. If you haven’t already, today is the day for you to sign up at PeoplePower.org and become a team activist. The ACLU is no longer a paternalistic you-write-the-check-and-we’ll-take-care-of-the- rest organization. The ACLU is recruiting a formidable force of civil liberties champions. Organizers say our force will “defend sanctuary cities, resist deportation raids, oppose the Muslim Ban, maintain Planned Parenthood funding and support other organizational priorities.” The work that lies ahead will be tough. Now is the time to join the resistance and amplify its power.

Who, exactly, are the ACLU?

We are always surprised when people ask us, “What, exactly, is the ACLU?” For us, because we are so involved, the answer seems pretty obvious, but simply because of the question, we are led to examine our response.

The ACLU is nearly 100 years old – that is undeniable. It was founded in 1920 by an amazing group of individuals, including Felix Frankfurter, future US Supreme Court Justice.

The mission of the ACLU is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution of the United States.” That it accomplishes by litigation in State and Federal courts on behalf of people whose civil liberties have been denied.

That mission has led the ACLU to successfully secure the rights of interracial couples to marry, the rights of LGBT couples to marry and adopt children, the rights of prisoners to be free from torture, and prevent government preferences for religion over non-religion or favoring certain faiths over others, the protection of individuals to speak out against government agencies and lots, lots, more. The ACLU has done way more than we could possibly list here.

Have you or someone you know been directly affected by the actions of the ACLU? Probably, yes.

Today, the ACLU is the largest and most active organization working to protect us from the actions and proposed actions of the government that are in direct violation of the Constitution.

That is the short version of what the ACLU is.

But, who is the ACLU?

We are the ACLU. Each of us who supports the ACLU with our actions and contributions. Every one of us. Everyone who realizes that separately we can accomplish very little, but together we have strength and power. We are not the litigators, but we support the litigators. We are not the legal scholars or Constitutional experts, but we make their work possible.

We invite each of you to join the ACLU if you are not already among its members.

And we invite you to join us at this year’s Annual Dinner on April 19 to learn more about the “5 Things You Can Do” to work with the ACLU at this critical time in our history.

Judy Weitzman
Lauren Bruce
Co-Presidents, GLACLU

Know Your Rights as a Protester

The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials sometimes violate this right through means intended to thwart free public expression.

The ACLU has scads of writing on the rights of protesters and what to do if you believe your rights have been violated.

The Greater Lafayette ACLU has condensed these writings and made them available for you to print and disperse. This is a two-page downloadable document that includes the fundamentals for understanding protesters’ rights, and best practices you should follow if your rights have been violated by the state.

[Click to download PDF: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – Protesters]

2016 in Review

GLACLU participated in three Black Lives Matter events since the spring newsletter.

  • ACLU of Indiana’s First Wednesday forum in September was hosted at the West Lafayette Public Library. The First Wednesday forum ‘Black Lives Matter: Diving Deeper into a Movement’ was moderated by Dave Bangert of the Lafayette Journal & Courier with panelists Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana; Marlo David, Associate Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Purdue UniversityNa’eemah Webb, a doctoral student at Purdue University; and West Lafayette Police Department Chief Jason Dombkowski. Presenters spoke about mechanisms of institutional racism, the experience raising black children in a racist culture, and solutions to improve policing practices. The forum was well attended and ended with a lively question and answer session.
  • We partnered with the Unitarian Universalist congregation in two open houses to share concerns, resources and hope for a path away from institutional racism. The GLACLU table at the BLM events at the UU church shared information on the ACLU and our long history of activities to defend the civil liberties of black Americans. The state chapter has provided informative, professionally produced materials for distribution at community events. These were helpful in engaging event participants in discussions of ACLU support for civil liberties.

The path to an America where all lives really do matter has been long and we have miles to go. Election of our first black president has raised the undercurrents of racism to roil the surface of our ‘melting pot’.

We at GLACLU plan to continue to discuss and educate about race and civil liberties. Please join us for upcoming events. Like the Greater Lafayette ACLU Facebook page to keep up to date on our events.

Reflections on Veteran’s Day

Our nation recently celebrated Veterans Day, including myself, as a veteran of the Marine Corps. This Veterans Day I reflected on what my service meant to me, and the course of our country since the recent general election.

As much civil rights progress as our country has made, we have so much work still to do to gain and preserve civil rights and liberties. I enlisted in the military as a high school graduate, very idealistic about what freedom means, what our rights are as citizens, and what I would have been willing to fight, and possibly die, for. I opted to join the infantry against the recommendations of my recruiter, as he told me I scored high enough on the ASFAB for any job in the military. I felt like the infantry would have the greatest impact, and I didn’t quite care how difficult it was. My platoon was a melting pot of races, backgrounds, and religions, and I had experiences with these people that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Many times in the infantry, I was made to ask, What are our rights? What is freedom? What does it mean to be an American citizen? All Americans, including all people within our borders, have rights and freedoms observed by the state. The rights of others may not limited by race, religion, gender, political affiliations, or any other method we might use to categorize groups of people. A threat to anyone’s rights is a threat to everyone’s rights.

My fight for freedom to protect the liberties of Americans now continues as a civilian in the ACLU where we exercise our rights to peacefully assemble to fight on behalf of citizens that have had their rights violated. Our mission is clear, and the agenda is to preserve everyone’s right to express their opinions and beliefs, practice their religion or lack thereof, preserve our right to due process, and protect our citizens against unlawful search and seizure, and so much more.

For example, threats against specific religious groups entering the country have been made by the incoming administration, specifically Muslims. We do not and have never had a religious test for those entering our borders. Even the Statue of Liberty, one of our greatest symbols for freedom and liberty, was originally created in the image of a Muslim woman. Ethnic, religious, and racial profiling are forbidden under the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments, which cover the right to due process and equal protection under the law.

The Constitution is here for all of us, not just some of us. The ACLU is here to protect your rights as a citizen, and as a guest in our borders. We stand for the rights of everyone, to protect them from discrimination and government alienation or intrusion. This is what I fought for and will continue to fight for in the ACLU.

An Intro to INCLO, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations

Those who dream of the globalization of civil liberties will cheer the news that the ACLU has a sister organization. It is the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO), a group that shares information and collaborates to promote fundamental liberties and rights of all persons in their respective countries. Like the ACLU, each of the member organizations is multi-issue, multi-constituency, and independent of its government.

The network is comprised of the domestic civil liberties and human rights organizations of twelve countries:

International efforts to promote freedom started in 2008 with a series of meetings of the executive directors of civil liberties and human rights organizations and formalized itself in 2012 with a structure and staff. In 2015 INCLO incorporated as a Swiss association with headquarters in Geneva. Its governing body is the 12 executive directors of each of the network’s organizations. The network supports the work of the member organizations through litigation, legislative campaigning, public education, and grass-roots advocacy. Following are some highlights of its work on the issues of police brutality and social protest, informational rights, and religious freedom and equal treatment.

Police Brutality and Social Protest

Informational Rights

  • 2015: participation of six INCLO members in litigation by the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal challenging government surveillance. This produced landmark rulings that both the previous UK-US data sharing and the handling of intercepted private communications of the Legal Resource Center (South Africa’s INCLO member) were unlawful. These were the first times the Tribunal ruled against agencies dealing with transnational mass digital surveillance.
  • the launch, with INCLO support, of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union website promoting privacy enhancing technologies (www.righttohide.com).
  • participation of INCLO members in the successful drive to get the UN Human Rights Council to approve the creation of a Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

Religious Freedom and Equal Treatment

Joan Laskowski
ACLU of Indiana Legislation Committee Chair

An Introduction to the GLACLU

After the results of the 2016 election, we are experiencing an influx of people interested in assisting the American Civil Liberties Union in our mission. Hello, and welcome.

WHO WE ARE

The ACLU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to protect and preserve the civil liberties granted to U.S. citizens by the Constitution and other laws in the United States. The ACLU is active nationally, and in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Many states also have local chapters, such as the Greater Lafayette ACLU.

The Greater Lafayette ACLU was organized in 1955 and has been active over the last 60 years, with the mission to provide educational opportunities to the Greater Lafayette area, and support the Indiana ACLU with awareness, advocacy, advisement, and fundraising initiatives.

We take on politicians and government officials who ignore the Constitution and put liberty at risk. We don’t answer to polls or to the whims of the electorate. We get out the facts, and when our freedoms are on the line, we mobilize grassroots support to protect our civil liberties.

We educate the next generation of civil libertarians, and the public. Our outreach programs help thousands of Hoosiers understand their constitutional rights and what they must do to protect them.

We challenge intolerance and bigotry wherever we find it. We work to root out any and all attempts to deny people the equal protection under the law that the Constitution guarantees.

WHAT WE DO

The GLACLU funds educational initiatives in Greater Lafayette and supports the state ACLU’s research, education, and litigation efforts.

The Indiana ACLU brings cases against government entities on behalf of Hoosiers whose rights have been curbed by anti-Constitutional laws brought within the state. Led by Jane Henegar and litigated by Bloomington attorney and professor Ken Falk, the Indiana chapter has an extremely successful record of litigation. Recent victories include:

The GLACLU board members meet monthly at the Unitarian Universalist church in West Lafayette, at 7PM on the second Wednesday of the month. If you are interested in attending meetings or serving on the board, please contact us to confirm meeting times, as meetings are sometimes moved. At meetings, we discuss current events, educational opportunities for the Lafayette area, upcoming state initiatives, and fundraising efforts. We have over 200 years of collective activist experience on the board, and meetings are often informative, entertaining, and inspirational.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

We anticipate that many laws testing the limits of our civil liberties  — including your right to freedom of speech, your rights to privacy, your right to peacefully assemble in protest, your right to practice your religion freely without state interference, and more — will be coming to the U.S. soon. Anxieties are warranted and the ACLU is ready and able to work on your behalf.

Here’s what you can do to support us:

  1. Report violations of constitutional liberties. This is, after all, our mission. From disability rights to youth rights, to protecting prisoners from discrimination and cruel and unusual punishment, to protecting religious liberty, free speech, privacy, voting rights and much more, the ACLU is here to help you protect and preserve your Constitutional rights. For us to take up a case, the criteria are as follows:
    1. Your civil liberties must have been violated by a government entity;
    2. Your issue concerns a right or freedom protected by the U.S. or Indiana Constitutions;
    3. You are the person or party whose constitutional rights have been violated. We are not able to accept complaints made by third parties.

The Indiana ACLU accepts these complaints directly here and will notify you whether or not your case can be litigated. If it is not, we do have resources available for those who we are unable to assist with litigation.

  1. Join the local ACLU. Annual membership dues for the local chapter are $10, and help fund educational initiatives in Greater Lafayette and support the state ACLU’s research, education, and litigation efforts. Send dues along with email and/or snail mail addresses to:

ACLU of Indiana
Greater Lafayette Chapter
PO Box 2706
West Lafayette, IN 47906

We send an bi-annual newsletter by mail with editorial and informational content, and are building our email list now for calls for more immediate local action. We promise not to share your information or spam your inbox.

    1. Join the state ACLU. You will strengthen our lobbying efforts and grassroots activity by becoming a member of the state ACLU. Paying annual dues of $35 or more entitles you to a membership in BOTH the state and national ACLU.
    2. Attend a board meeting. Board meetings are on the second Wednesday of each month. We meet at the UU Church in West Lafayette, 333 Meridian St, West Lafayette, Indiana. We discuss current events, educational opportunities for the Lafayette area, upcoming state initiatives, and fundraising efforts, and welcome member participation.
    3. Attend our events. We host regular lunchtime talks, an annual fundraising dinner, and weekend events throughout the year. We discuss civil liberties issues happening locally, statewide, and nationally, and provide networking opportunities for activists to make deeper and more meaningful connections in the community.
    4. Take initiative. When the horn is sounded for action, take the time to follow through on writing or calling your representatives. Many representatives hear little from the electorate, and are voting to confirm or deny laws without much citizen input. You can change that by devoting a small amount of time following through on these calls to action. Generally speaking, a phone call is more powerful than an email. Sometimes the ACLU will need warm bodies to support organizational efforts as well. Make time to assist. Oftentimes, the time needed to assist an organization like ours is only a few hours a month or less.
    5. Support your neighbors. Living in a Big Ten town, we have a unique opportunity to seed our efforts with locals, faculty, and students, some of whom will stay and grow a culture of advocacy and organization in Greater Lafayette, and some who will take their experiences with them to new areas of the state, nation and globe. It is important that we listen to, respect, and support one another during anxious times, and nurture a culture of advocacy and organization so our efforts can continue wherever we end up.
    6. Get active, period. The ACLU may not be the right organization for your time and energy, and we appreciate that. There may be other organizations that better fit your resources and expertise. Find them, ask what they need, and then do that. Become an expert in it, and tell everyone you know why this work is so important. The secret sauce of political organizing is awareness, amplification, and learning how to show up and show out — every time, en masse.

We welcome your interest in our organization and are thrilled to have your attention.  Please continue to agitate for the respect and preservation of civil liberties while we plan the 2017 season of the GLACLU. We promise we have much in store for you in the coming days.

Lauren Bruce
Judy Weitzman
Presidents, Greater Lafayette ACLU

BLACK LIVES MATTER: Diving Deeper into A Movement

This summer, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center released a disturbing report about race and inequality in the United States. The report concluded from survey data that four in ten Blacks are doubtful that our country will ever achieve racial equality, and that whites have “widely different perceptions” about what life is like in this U.S. for people of color. These divides make clear that we have much more work to do if we are to achieve understanding about the entrenched problems of racial inequality.

We hope you will join us on Wednesday, September 7 as we convene a First Wednesdays panel in West Lafayette to discuss racial justice and policing.

Black Lives Matter: Diving Deeper into A Movement
Wed., Sept. 7, 12-1 p.m.
Check-in begins at 11:30 a.m.
West Lafayette Public Library
208 W Columbia Street
West Lafayette, IN 47906

The event is FREE and open to the public, and is part of our statewide First Wednesdays series. Smart, civil and only an hour.

Our panel includes moderator Dave Bangert of the Lafayette Journal & Courier; Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana; Marlo David and Na’eemah Webb of Purdue University and West Lafayette Police Department Chief Jason Dombkowski.

Hope to see you there!

Coming to our June 2016 Ice Cream Social?

Please join us on Wednesday, June 8,  for an ice cream social, with visitors Katie Blair and Jane Henegar from the Indianapolis ACLU, to chat about the state of civil rights in Indiana. If you’ve been paying attention to state politics, you know we’ve got a lot to discuss.

We will meet at 7 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church in West Lafayette, and snacks, seats, and exhilarating company will be provided.

Please RSVP here so we save you a cone.

Directions below:

Defending the Indefensible

Originally published Spring 2011.

As ACLU members, we share a common commitment to defend civil liberties, in the service of which sometimes comes the need to defend the indefensible.

In an 8 – 1 decision on March 2, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the free speech rights of members of the Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist anti-gay group, over a family burdened by the loss in Iraq of their Marine son.

“The Court’s decision properly and respectfully acknowledges”, wrote ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro, “that the response to grief cannot include the abandonment of core First Amendment principles designed to protect the most unpopular speech on matters of public concern.”

For some this case conjured up memories of the 1978 ACLU’s defense of the KKK’s right to march in Skokie, Illinois, residence of many holocaust survivors. Although an action that led to a decline in ACLU membership, it is now regarded by many as the ACLU’s finest hour by having demonstrated that constitutional rights must apply to all if they are to apply to one.

In 2004, the ACLU of Florida claimed that state law enforcement officers violated Rush Limbaugh’s privacy rights by seizing his medical records as part of an investigation involving alleged “doctor shopping”.

Why, ask some, should the ACLU come to the defense of Rush Limbaugh? To which Howard Simon, then Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, responded “We have always said that the ACLU’s real client is the Bill of Rights, and we will continue to safeguard the values of equality, fairness, and privacy for everyone, regardless of race, economic status, or political point of view.”

In declaring “the freer the speech, the stronger the democracy”, Tom Roden, guardian.co.uk, criticizes Europe for the restrictions it imposes on free speech, because such laws tend to drive extremists underground and into radical actions. Providing a democratic outlet, even for hateful speech, instills the belief that discourse alone may persuade others to the cause. Closing this opportunity indirectly fosters acts of intimidation and violence.

“Violent extremism is the resort of those that believe violence, not speech, is their best mechanism for social change.”

So the next time you are asked why the ACLU defends the indefensible, say it is to strengthen and safeguard democracy and extend an invitation to join the ACLU in this vital endeavor.

Sincerely,

Roberta Schonemann and Judy Weitzman

Co-Presidents, Greater Lafayette Chapter ACLU of Indiana