Is the ACLU anti-Christian?

For all the dopers who insist that the establishment clause is taking God out of school and that the ACLU is the tool of such liberal attacks, please tell me if you really think the ACLU is not, in effect, defending the rights of all. Does this decision make Christian dopers more aware of what is acceptable and not acceptable about bringing God into school, or will only everyone has to pray to my God suffice?

ACLU Settles Case On Behalf Of Christian Valedictorian

I’ve never thought they were.

Another example:

Falwell and the ACLU – Court cases can make strange bedfellows

Perhaps A-Christian. Certainly not anti- or pro-Christian. Questions of religious dogma and faith have little to do with the ACLU’s concerns.

Perhaps your initial approach is incorrect.

The ACLU is neither pro- or con- with respect to religion. It defends the Bill of Rights because the government should remain neutral. In the two cases cited, the ACLU is defending against government interference with respect to religion.

In the words of President Andrew Shepherd in The American President,

“For the record, yes, I am a card carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is “Why aren’t you, Bob?” Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question, why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the constitution?” Source:

Perhaps my initial post was not as clear as I meant it to be. In many other threads I have heard a constant complaint against the ACLU that states that they are seeking to “take God out of school”. The reason I posted this specific thread was to see if any of the if people who constantly bring this up when the Pledge of Allegiance is discussed still believe that the ACLU is intent on attacking Christians. I personally do not believe it, and I agree that they are pro-Constitution and not anti anyone, but I wanted to see if anyone can still state that the ACLU is anti-Christian in light of the cases mentioned here.

What you’re not understanding, depocali, is that that particular segment of Christianity considers anyone not committed to their vision of a Christian-centered America to be a secular humanist. An occasional case where the ACLU defends a Christian’s religious rights doesn’t make up for their efforts to “leave God outside the schoolhouse door”. I spent most of a five-page thread on another board gathering and posting cites for cases where the ACLU has taken a Christian’s side in a rights dispute to convince another poster that the ACLU was NOT anti-Christian, and in the end it just came back down to “I still consider them atheistic humanists.”

My minister was a member of the ACLU. :cool:

Ah, but he’s probably one of those soft-on-sin lib’rul National Council of Churches almost-agnostic Christians that are the lasting legacy of the Hippie 60s!

I know this just from a movie, but it is not really true. The purpose of the ACLU goes beyond defending just the Bill of Rights.

And something I have always found weird is the ACLU considers the Bill of Rights to be more than the first 10 amendments:


AFAICT the ACLU considers the Bill of Rights to be made up of the First, Third thru Ninth, Thirteenth thru Fifteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments.


I, too, always thought that the ACLU was devoted to defending the Bill of Rights (probably from watching the movie).

In a thread a while back in GD, I realized this is not true.

ACLU Web Site

Bolding mine.

So, they argue that they are all about the constitution and bill of rights. However, this is a smokescreen. They go on to specifically state their agenda by bullets:

It looks like they are actually driven by an agenda that has little to do with the constitution or bill of rights. They have certain things that they want to protect. Some of these things correspond to the bill of rights such as freedom of speech and association. However, others aren’t on the bill of rights at all, like right to privacy.

In the meantime, some things from the bill of rights are not part of the agenda of the ACLU at all, such as the right to bear arms.

They also are pro-choice, something which isn’t in the bill of rights at all.

Uh…what? The Fourth Amendment

Why spend resources protecting a portion of the Constitution that is already being adequately protected by the NRA? If you can show that they actively attack the 2nd Amendment, you’d have an argument.

Yes, but the bill of rights was used to uphold a woman’s right to choose. What is inconsistent with that?

Debaser, the Bill of Rights is also expanded upon by later amendments, and the courts have found that within the penumbra of those civil liberties enshrined in 1-9, 13-15 and 19, that a right to privacy which is both deep and wide can be found. By supporting the right to privacy, the ACLU is supporting and protecting the established jurisprudential reach of the Bill of Rights.

As for the second amendment, the ACLU supports it, but does not believe that it applies to individuals who are not members of an organized governmental militia, IIRC. That may not be YOUR interpretation of 2, but it’s not necessarily an invalid one.

Intriguingly, I opened SDMB, Great Debates, and found this thread, immediately after writing a post on a Christian board I belong to on precisely the same subject. So I’m quoting that post, nearly verbatim here:

I think the whole issue here needs to be looked at from a Constitutional law perspective and a Christian doctrine perspective.

The ACLU is in business as an advocacy organization (and, as [another member] mentioned, they have a less than completely wonderful origin story, but I focus on the work they’ve done during my lifetime, not on what they may or may not have been in the distant past) with the intention of defending the civil liberties of Americans, particularly those guaranteed in the First Amendment. (They also speak out from time to time about the Fifth and Sixth, almost never about the Second or Fourth AFAIK).

As regards religious issues, the First Amendment guarantees two things:

(1) No person will be unduly barred from the free exercise of his or her religion. (The “unduly” line is not part of the text but a matter of judicial interpretation, allowing for, e.g., a cultist who believes that clothing is the work of the Devil to be barred from walking around public places in the nude, or the guy who claims that LSD is the way to God from distributing free samples of it to teenagers.) Any regulation regarding “free exercise” has to be founded on “time, place, and manner” standards that do not address content. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to bar someone from ringing your doorbell to witness at 3:00 AM – but the regulations have to address ringing your doorbell at 3:00 AM for any purpose, not just witnessing – and if it permits the Girl Scouts to ring your doorbell at 4:00 PM to sell you cookies, it also has to allow selling siding and witnessing through doorbell-ringing at the same time. The focus has to be on time, place, and manner, not on content, of what’s being regulated.

(2) No statute is acceptable “respecting an establishment of religion” – hotly contested, but I think [a conservative lawyer who posts on that board] would agree that standard jurisprudence interprets this as that no government body may impose any religious practice on people by statute or regulation.

It’s important to note that the First Amendment prohibits Congress – and, by extension, the rest of the Federal Government, which can, by and large, act only in accordance with Congressional statute – from doing these two things. What extends them to all government is the Fourteenth Amendment. By the guarantee of the First Amendment, they are “privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States” which no state, according to the Fourteenth, may deprive its citizens of without “due process of law.” What this means is again hotly argued, but the doctrine of “substantive due process” is usually taken to mean that no state government may pass a law that deprives its citizens of either of those two protections. And by extension, no entity created by the state, including local governments and school districts, may adopt ordinances, regulations, etc., which do that.

The ACLU argues cases where one of those two guarantees of freedom have arguably been violated. It does choose its cases rather selectively – as noted by another poster, occasionally for publicity value; other criteria include what it regards as matters of principle, the potential for obtaining a win at one level or another of the court system, and how invasive the particular problem is seen to be of the basic freedom guaranteed.

School prayer is a hot-button issue for a lot of good Christians. And it’s important to grasp the state of jurisprudence here. There is an old and humorous line that “They’ll never succeed in driving prayer out of schools as long as they keep giving tests.” While funny, it makes a constitutional point. Students are completely free to pray in school, including voluntarily banding together in prayer groups, Bible studies, etc. – and that freedom may not be restricted by the schools.

The key point is that a public school is a governmental body, paid for by taxes and created by state law, and as such is not permitted to impose a religious act on the kids it stands in loco parentis of during school hours. That means no school official or employee, from the board of education down to the janitor, can require or encourage any student to say a particular prayer, read the Bible, or any other religious act, whether Christian or otherwise.

They may not keep students from doing so voluntarily except as part of a bona fide set of disciplinary rules. If the rules say that no students may wear jewelry, that will mean no crosses around their neck along with anything else, be it a Hindu or Satanic symbol, a purely secular necklace, or whatever (time place and manner) – but it has to cover all or none. If student clubs are permitted, a Bible study club has to be permitted – and a Gay-Straight Alliance along with it, if kids want to join one or the other – or both. They can be banned across the board – but it’d be violating the establishment clause to permit some and not others.

In a country that has a Christian majority, violations of both free exercise and establishment clause protections are going to impinge on Christianity far more often than they do anything else. It’s plausible that a Muslim teacher might witness to a Sikh student – but that’s going to be far rarer than a Christian in one role or the other. Hence ACLU actions to protect people from establishment clause violations are most often the mistaken actions of Christians, and appear to be “anti-Christian.” They’re in general not; they’re anti-compulsion by a governmental organization or employee who happens to be attempting to use his authority to influence people to his faith.

As Christians, we are called on to educate children in Christian belief and proper moral behavior – particularly our own, but also those with whom we come in contact in the course of our daily lives. I have this situation brought home to me personally in that my “grandchildren” are not any legal relation to me – they’re the children of three boys whom we fostered, informally, in their late teens. So my witness to them has got to be one that conforms to what God expects of me, but in a way that does not violate the principles on which their parents are raising them. Fortunately, we’re all pretty much in agreement on how to handle the situation – but from time to time I have to be careful not to violate parental authority on the subject at hand.

It’s important that kids in public schools be made aware of Christian ethics and belief – but this must be done with due respect for their freedoms. For a student to witness to another student is completely within the realm of his legal rights – in fact, is protected by the free exercise clause. For a school principal to start the day with prayer officially sanctioned and imposed across the board is violating students’ rights under the establishment clause. I personally think that a teacher speaking one-on-one about faith to a kid outside a class setting is generally proper under free exercise – but the courts’ reviews on this are mixed, since it can be seen as undue exercise of governmentally-granted authority.

Christian parents and citizens generally need to be aware of what can be legitimately done to influence children toward Christianity, and what is contrary to our legal protections of each individual’s right to freely exercise his or her beliefs without governmental compulsion or coercion.

The key point to me here is that the ACLU is doing exactly what it was set up to do – to be an advocate for the freedom we all have as Americans to mind our own business without governmental regulation – and that we owe it to our fellow citizens, under the Constitution, that what we do to evangelize them and (particularly with kids) train them in the way they should go has to have that same level of respect for individual dignity and choice

Polycarp, if that post doesn’t lay down the goon hand, I don’t know what would. Well said.

That’s correct as this archived page on the ACLU site shows.

Frankly, however, I find their reasoning to be rather vacant. They cite U.S. vs. Miller - 1939 as the only modern ruling by the Supreme Court on 2nd amendment issues and they call it a unanimous decision for the collective rights interpretation of the issue. This ignores the fact that the issue was decided by default; the defendant never showed up for the hearing, thus this side of issue was never argued before the court in Miller.

The ACLU also makes the rather specious claim that if the right to own firearms is indeed an individual one, then the federal government is unable to place any restrictions on “arms,” up to and including nuclear weapons.

Both of these rationales appear to ignore the very valid argument that “the people” as used in many amendments, means just that, “the people,” everybody.

And then there’s Emerson - a ruling by a federal judge, Sam Cummings, in a district court in Texas which states quite emphatically that the 2nd amendment is indeed an individual right. The ACLU position ignores this case and its arguments entirely. That may be only because the ACLU formed its collective rights stance before this ruling came down. The Supreme Court denied cert on Emerson without comment in June of 2002.

In short, the ACLU’s argument that they do support 2nd amendment rights, but only the collective interpretation of the 2nd amendment, wouldn’t pass muster here at the SDMB except when made by the most novice of 2nd amendment debaters. That’s why I call their reasoning “vacant.”

Sorry for the trip down the side road. Back to the ACLU and the Christians.

They say that like it’s a bad thing.

They say that like it’s a bad thing.

So what? The Court in Miller had the legal issue of the Second Amendment before it:

Speaking for the unanimous Court, McReynolds J. stated:

That’s a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States on the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. The fact that there was no-one arguing for the other side does not undercut its status as precedent. By the principles of stare decisis, it’s a binding decision on all the lower courts, unless and until the Supreme Court revisits it. So the ACLU is on good ground in relying on it.

As for Emerson, it’s my understanding that some of the other circuits have reached different results. The denial of cert. doesn’t mean that the Supreme Court agrees with the reasoning in Emerson. It just means that the applicant for cert did not convince at least four Supreme Court judges that the case warranted Supreme Court review. Where the circuits are divided, the lawyers for the ACLU have to assess where they think the law is likely to go on this issue. If they chose the more traditional interpretation that seems more consistent with Miller, I have little reason to fault them.