ACLU Attacks Liberty
by Ari Armstrong, April 1, 2005
Despite the date, the headline of this article is no joke, unfortunately. I joined the ACLU a few years ago, when the state affiliate defended a bar owner in the southern part of the state whose signs were stolen by government officials. The signs were returned, thanks to the ACLU. Often the ACLU defends people's rights, and for that I am grateful. However, Colorado's ACLU has recently endorsed a significant violation of people's rights. Thus, at this time I must withhold my support from the organization.
In its March, 2005, newsletter, "All Rights Reserved," an article on page five titled, "ACLU is in the Lobby," states, "The ACLU of Colorado Board has recently voted to join the coalition to alleviate some of the problems caused by TABOR [the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights] (HB 1194 by Rep. Andrew Romanoff.) If this proposal goes to the ballot, it would reduce the rate of income taxes to 4.5%, but allow the state to appropriate an amount up to 6% of personal income, which was the size of state government in 2001 before the recession. The tight financial situation of the state has hurt, and if not corrected will continue to hurt, many people in the state including legal immigrants and pregnant women who were removed from Medicaid, those who are mentally ill, students seeking access to higher education, and those who need access to courts."
Except for the last item in the list, all of the projects supported by the ACLU are types of social welfare. In its latest manifestation, Romanoff's proposal, one supported by Republican Governor Bill Owens, would allow Colorado's politicians to spend an estimated $3 billion more of taxes over the next five years, on top of increases TABOR already authorizes. The first-pass criticism of the ACLU's position is simply that it falls outside the mandate of the organization. Does the ACLU exist to defend the civil liberties of Americans, or does it exist to promote a leftist welfare state? By acting outside its mandate, the ACLU is alienating potential allies in other causes, and it is diverting its resources away from the defense of civil liberties.
The deeper criticism is that the ACLU is actively supporting the violation of rights. Of course, this claim depends on the view that people's rights include the right of economic self-determination. That is, people have a right to earn wealth and spend it as they choose. People have a right to participate in a voluntary, free-market economy, to donate to charitable causes if they wish, and to remain unmolested by politicians and interest groups who want to take their wealth by force. All rights, including rights of free speech, are a manifestation of property rights, yet not only is the ACLU failing to defend property rights, it is actively seeking to undermine them.
The ACLU's article was written by Pat Steadman and Pat Pascoe. Pascoe is a former Democratic State Senator who, incidentally, also sought to violate the fundamental human right of self-defense while in the legislature. Apparently, the state ACLU has allowed itself to be hijacked by Pascoe for her pet leftist causes. Pascoe is described as "Chair, ACLU Legislative Committee and Board Member."
Ironically, the state ACLU's executive director, Cathryn Hazouri, does recognize a right to one's income in a limited context, when it suits her politics. In a March 31 letter to the Denver Post, Hazouri writes, "Taxpayers must be reimbursed for the thousands of dollars spent for President Bush's Social Security road show -- for all the expenses surrounding the Denver trip. Three Coloradans were ejected from the event despite the fact that they had tickets. They did not agree with President Bush's policy and may have asked some pointed questions if given the opportunity. They were denied that chance when they were forced to leave before the event started. The Colorado organizers told the three adults that the event was private and they were unwelcome. Taxpayers do not pay for private events. Taxpayers pay for events at which the U.S. Constitution will be respected and enforced. Taxpayers pay for events at which freedom of speech is encouraged, not for events where the content of a person's opinions, and the right to freely express those opinions, is regulated. Whoever declared it a private event must shoulder the costs -- not the Colorado public."
Though her views are inconsistent, at least Hazouri recognizes some link between income and rights. Of course, Hazouri misses the broader point: why should taxpayers be forced to fund propaganda events at all? Any organized event necessarily regulates speech; otherwise the result is a mass shouting match. It is common for security to remove disruptive persons from public events. Any event is limited to a brief time, so the number of views presented must be restricted.
An article on page four of the ACLU's newsletter also recognizes some limited right to property. (The article is written in the first person, though the author is not identified.) The piece complains about "zealots... screaming about atheistic, progressive, anti-Christ devil worshippers who want to rip religion from government buildings and government-funded programs." The article describes the view "that the founding fathers never prohibited the government from equally supporting all religions... This is a curiously interesting concept, but it stands at great variance with historical and judicial understanding of the meaning of the First Amendment. I think we need to refresh our memories. 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...' It is clear that if you give money to an organization you are helping its establishment."
Clear, indeed. Why, then, does the ACLU want to force people to give money to universities to establish the religion of leftist socialism? The ACLU supports free speech for leftists, but not for the rest of us. If it is a violation of a person's rights to force him or her to fund religion, then it is equally a violation of a person's rights to force him or her to subsidize Ward Churchill, the professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who rationalized the mass slaughter of Americans.
But, of course, the ACLU supports Churchill, along with his tax subsidy, and thus endorses the mass violation of the rights of Coloradans. The article by Steadman and Pascoe states, "Academic freedom has been a hot topic at the statehouse for the past several years, but CU's Prof. Ward Churchill has helped raise the profile of this First Amendment issue." But why is the contractual matter of tenure supposedly a "First Amendment issue?" "I think we need to refresh our memories. 'Congress shall make no law...'" The only plausible argument, one made also by conservative David Horowitz, is that, precisely because Churchill is subsidized by the state, he therefore say whatever the hell he wants, with practically no standards, because, well, the First Amendment protects state employees. But what about the free-speech rights of the rest of us, who have the right not to fund rantings we find abhorrent? (The solution is to stop subsidizing colleges so that professors are no longer wards of the state.)
That the state ACLU, in a two-page spread of its newsletter, simultaneously blasts state funding for the Ten Commandments and advocates state funding for Ward Churchill is appallingly hypocritical. This April Fool's Day, the joke is on all of us who gave money to the Colorado ACLU with the expectation at it would live up to its name and defend civil liberties.