Help me understand the dislike for the ACLU

Why do people dislike (even hate) the ACLU? When I hear the Conservative pundits on the radio they’re quick to demonize this “liberal” organization. Don’t they defend issues that are not considered liberal as well? Seems to me like Conservatives would be supportive of an organization that is looking out for their freedoms (seems like they’re always talking about their fear of losing them). If there’s so much dislike for this organization is there an anti-ACLU organization that specializes in fighting them?

I can’t speak for any organizations, but personally I can’t stand them. I am all for their message of protecting civil rights and what-not, but recently I found they are fighting tooth and claw to make affirmative action for hiring purposes legal again here in Michigan. Any organization that is pro-discrimination against me (young white male) is not something I want to support.

They fight against a whole lot of conservative causes, mainly religious ones. This puts them right in satans camp for them.

I have heard the ACLU has defended some religious causes in the past, is this not true?

Even if they had they are still on the opposite side every other time. But yes, i do believe you are right.

Because some of the values they support violate conservative principals. Conservatives want a strong military and police while the ACLU fights for prisoners and suspect’s rights and limits the power of military and police in the process. Conservatives prefer a more traditional culture (which is more exclusive) and the ACLU fights for inclusiveness (defending immigrants, latinos, muslims, GLBT, etc).

That is my impression. Many conservatives are more likely to want an exclusive society (only conservative heterosexual christian white males) with strong national defense (where police and military are given free reign), and the ACLU fights against that by making society more inclusive and limiting the power of authority figures.

Plus when conservatives talk about freedom the freedom they reference usually doesn’t include freedom from police or military brutality, nor does it include freedom of minorities to participate freely in society (if anything they support the freedom to marginalize minorities as much as possible. The debate over state’s rights that Reagan used to start his 1980 political campaign was about ‘the freedom of states rights’ which is code for freedom to marginalize black people w/o federal government interference).

Usually conservative freedom means freedom from government regulation and government social programs. The ACLU isn’t involved in these things.

Quite a few, actually–and not “in the past,” either. The bulk of their cases involving religion are about either (1) freedom of religion and (2) separation of church and state. (1) is, by definition, defending a religious cause.

A quick look on their website shows that the first four cases they discuss are evenly split between those two categories.

For example,
Defending prisoners from a prison’s attempt to limit their access to religious material

Defending student preachers’ right to preach on public property

The ACLU is also not shy about defending even arch-conservatives. Rush Limbaugh, for example.,2933,108140,00.html

OK, so its all about YOU. Got it.

Forget the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, decades of forced discrimination, patently unconstitutional laws that were somehow upheld or, more basically, the fight for equal justice, and you are not willing to consider their work on the whole. If the ACLU is doing their job they are pissing everybody off, except the few people that can see both sides of the argument. If some entity doesn’t play Devil’s Advocate then we all lose. The whole existence of the ACLU is to make sure that the majority doesn’t agree with them. They fight the fight on the fringes that no individual can afford to take on.

I have a lot of disagreements with the ACLU but I’m glad they are there. At least, they get a lot of things tested for rulings that might not otherwise get considered. They don’t always expect to win but they do want to see the basis of the ruling. That is a big help in moving justice forward. They act as a check to prevent all of our rights getting overrun by the popular mindset.

Thanks for this comment. I think this helps me understand why Conservatives dislike the ACLU so much. I’ve also heard them mentioned in the context of gun control. The brief literature that I’ve read seems to indicate that they’re mostly FOR gun control, which obviously does not play well with the NRA. What’s the thought on that front?

I don’t like the ACLU because of the aformentioned discrimination they’re for. Yes, there was discrimination in the past – sorry about that, but it wasn’t my fault, and I don’t want to be discriminated against because of someone else’s mistakes.

If I’m more qualified I should have a better chance of getting a job or position (whether university, internship, whatever), or if I’m equally qualified I should have an equal chance of getting a job. Screw that I’m white, screw that the other guy’s mother was Latino. Equality, if you’re more qualified than me, you should get the job even if you’re the most vanilla WASP in the world.

I am also fundamentally opposed to their work on the 2nd amendment, they hold it as a ‘group right’ instead of an individual right – I’m curious as to why freedom of speech and freedom of religion aren’t treated the same way?

Other than that, I’m fine with them – but until they fix those two issues I will not “support” them. I don’t support any organization which seeks to infringe my personal rights, even if they work to expand others.
ETA: I very much do like their work on GLBT rights, minority rights, etc. I just oppose the idea that by discriminating against the majority living now, we somehow ‘make right’ past wrongs.

On the ACLU’s view with regard to gun control, the ACLU’s statement on the recent DC gun case suggests that it believes the case was wrongly decided, but it takes no view on the wisdom of gun control as a policy (I’ve pasted the policy statement at the bottom of my post). Make of that what you will.

However, we should be careful to realize that there is a difference between having an opinion on the constitutionality of gun control laws, and advocating such a position in court. The ACLU seems to rarely, if ever, actually get involved in second amendment litigation or to convince courts that its position is correct. For example, the ACLU did not file a brief in the recent supreme court case on gun control in DC. If they were really for gun control in an active sense, it makes no sense for them not to be involved in the most important gun control case of the century.

In my amateur opinion, the reason for this is that there is a well funded, quite professional organization actively advocating for a strong second amendment, and protecting gun rights–the NRA itself. The ACLU seems to, at least, not be interfering with the NRA’s litigation (As seen by the ACLU not getting involved in the Heller Case)–and I completely understand the wisdom of avoiding duplication of effort, and conserving ACLU resources by letting the NRA handle most second amendment cases, especially as the NRA is both well funded and quite good at what it does.

It is a terrific organization that will work for anybody who they think is being cheated by the system. They have defended conservatives and the powerful as well as well as liberal causes. But the fact that more poor are in need of defense makes them a target for the rich. The rich drive the press and news ,so like ACORN or unions, you will never see a positive report in mainstream news. Eventually they win through erosion. People just know there’s something wrong with an organization with bad press. There has to be. That is unless you realize the press is acting out an agenda.They work for them. Here is a list of important Supreme Court cases they have won.
Most cases are about keeping freedom of speech and getting the governmental power off our backs. The Libertarians should love them.

For that matter, #2 is also often a matter of defending religion - since it leads straight to #1 if your particular religion isn’t in power. I think a lot of people don’t realize that, for example, your typical lawsuit against prayer in school is brought not by atheists or agnostics; but by believers who don’t want their children forced to say someone else’s prayers someone else’s way.

As for why the ACLU makes people mad; they defend civil rights, even for unpopular reasons. That makes people mad because many people want to go against such rights, which is why the whole concept of “civil rights” was created in the first place. They were created to protect the weak or unpopular from others; naturally defending such rules will irritate many.

Why must I necessarily like them? They have their opinions on constitutional interpretation - these opinions are not necessarily reflected in current law, wide public opinion, or my own viewpoint.

I am free to disagree with them as much as they are free to disagree with me.

Because they fight for the Bill of Rights. Buncha communists!

I’m a card carrying member and they’re beginning to piss even me off. At least twice a month I’m solicited for yet another donation to assist with this or that urgent cause. I made the mistake of donating upon the first two solicitations after paying my membership dues, and they haven’t stopped. It’s almost like “Hey, we’re two for two with this idi…ahem member. Let’s continue to hit him up.”

A few of my colleagues and I have had conversations about the ACLU, probably as a result of their incredulity at my membership. Most of them are conservative and, I have to admit, it is fun to get a rise out of them over this.

My best guess, based solely on people I know, is their hatred is more a knee-jerk reaction than anything of substance. They look at the ACLU as an ultra liberal organization. Most of them are absolutely convinced the ACLU has never championed a conservative cause or organization, and those who have heard of certain cases where the ACLU has voiced its ire in support of the rights of conservative causes either don’t care or dismiss it as a fluke.

It seems conservatives’ main problem with the ACLU is that they defend liberal causes at all. Fact is the ACLU supports equality for all Americans, including conservatives. It’s just that their defense is required much more often on the liberal side of the spectrum because an overwhelming number of gays, blacks, Hispanics, and other traditionally discriminated against groups, who have legitimate and pressing grievances but limited monetary and organizational resources to combat them, lean liberal.

Many conservatives don’t want a leveling of the playing field. They hear the letters ACLU and can almost feel their days at the trough at the expense of others coming to an end, and they don’t like it, nope, not one bit. That’s too bad because as long as there continues to be systematic discrimination, and abridgments of rights and equal access, the ACLU will continue to lend their voice to those without one and shine a light on practices that serve to hurt today’s common good.

I’m not for all the positions the ACLU takes either, but I support the organization because, in the main, I believe their philosophy and goals are sound and moral, if a bit too idealistic.


The constant solicitations are a total turn-off. While I believe in the purpose of the organization, they have hired some clueless marketing maven who is risking their long term survival on short term fund raising.

The American President, 1995

It may be a Hollywood quote, but it works for me.

Basically, the ACLU is villified because it defends citizens against Establishment Clause abuses. Conservatives perceive any attempt to stop the government from cramming Christianity up people’s asses as an “attack on God.”