American Civil Liberties Union


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American Civil Liberties Union

(ACLU), nonpartisan organization devoted to the preservation and extension of the basic rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Founded (1920) by such prominent figures as Jane Addams, Helen Keller, Judah Magnus, and Norman Thomas, the ACLU grew out of earlier groups that had defended the rights of conscientious objectors during World War I. Its program is directed toward three major areas of civil liberties: inquiry and expression, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion; equality before the law for everyone, regardless of race, nationality, sex, political opinion, or religious belief; and due process of law for all. Its most significant and successful activities have involved court tests of important civil liberties issues. Since its founding, the ACLU has participated directly or indirectly in almost every major civil liberties case contested in American courts. Among these are the so-called Scopes monkey trial in Tennessee (1925), the Sacco-Vanzetti case (1920s), the federal court test (1933) that ended the censorship of James Joyce's Ulysses, and the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) school desegregation case. In the late 1970s the ACLU defended the right of a neo-Nazi group to march in Skokie, Ill. The ACLU has about 275,000 members in its state organizations. The national office, located in New York City, also supports lobbying and educational activity on behalf of civil liberties issues.

Bibliography

See J. L. Gibson and R. D. Bingham, Civil Liberties and Nazis (1985).

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Signers include Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida: Florida Education Association: American Association of University Women of Florida; American Jewish Congress, South East Region; the Anti-Defamation League, Florida Region; Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers; Florida State Conference NAACP; Gray Panthers of North-Dade; Gray Panthers of South-Dade; the League of Women Voters; the National Council of Jewish Women FL State Public Affairs and People For the American Way.
Other courts in other states could [now] be looking to the state of Alaska on how it handled the equal-protection rationale," said Michael Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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