Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More Dishonest Nonsense About the ACLU

The Worldnutdaily continues its campaign of outright dishonesty toward the ACLU with this ridiculous screed by William Simon. The lies begin in the very first sentence:

Believe it or not, there was a time when the American Civil Liberties Union was a respected organization that fought to protect civil liberties for all Americans. But that time is long past.

Nonsense, Mr. Simon. Your ideological predecessors were railing about the “godless and communist” ACLU at least as far back as the 1925 Scopes trial, and the ACLU was only formed in 1922. So please don’t expect us to buy into this “I used to respect them but they’ve gotten so radical” line. Lie #2:

Consider, for example, some recent actions taken by the ACLU. The United States is fighting a war against foreign terrorists who claim to act for religious reasons. The ACLU defends them.

He doesn’t name any case in which the ACLU has defended “foreign terrorists”. There’s a reason for that – there are no such cases. And he knows it. Now it may be true that the ACLU is opposed to the Bush administration’s attempt to suspend habeas corpus in any individual case where they wanted to hold an American citizen for as long as they wanted without filing any charges. But they’re right, and the Supreme Court agreed with them. Even the arch-conservative Justice Scalia was absolutely firm that no president had such authority, and he was right. But hey, why let facts get in the way of a perfectly good demonizing?

Though the ACLU points to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to support its absolutist position on religion and government, the founding fathers made clear that this clause meant only that government could not establish a national religion or favor one religion over another. Indeed, they sought to protect and to promote religion as a vital support for moral virtue and individual liberty. This was the broad understanding of just about every political leader and constitutional scholar down to, roughly, the 1950s.

Really. Perhaps Mr. Simon has never heard of James Madison, the father of the Constitution and the principal author of the first amendment, whose position was even more staunchly separationist than today’s ACLU. Madison argued that even congressional and military chaplaincies violated the first amendment. But hey, what would he know? He’s only the single most important influence on the framing of the Constitution and the bill of rights.

This is the doctrine that the ACLU pursues as it seeks to fortify and extend this wall of separation between church and state, between religion and government, and between moral values and political debate.

Complete and utter nonsense. Neither the ACLU nor any other church/state separationist has ever argued that there should be a wall of separation between “moral values” and “political debate”. This is pure unadulterated bullshit, shoveled out by the wagon full by people who really think that they hold an exclusive trademark on morality.

In 2001, the ACLU threatened to file a lawsuit when church parishioners built a Nativity scene in a public park in Breaux Bridge, La. This was but the latest installment in a long tradition of ACLU opposition to Nativity scenes in public places.

Completely false. The ACLU does not oppose nativity scenes in public places, it only opposes using tax money to put them up or allowing exclusive access to Christian groups to put up symbols of their faith and excluding other groups from the public square. And remember, Simon himself just said that the first amendmen did not allow the government to “favor one religion over another”. Obviously giving only one religion access to the public square to erect symbols of their faith, or using public funds to put up only the symbols of one religion, is favoring one religion over another. And Simon himself would throw a bloody fit if only the one religion that had access was a religion other than his own.

In the San Francisco Bay area, school principal Patricia Vidmar censored a fifth-grade teacher’s lesson plan because it used documents containing references to God. Teacher Steven Williams fought back by filing his own lawsuit. The offending materials included the diary of John Adams, George Washington’s journal, and the Declaration of Independence.

Again, highly inaccurate. Steven Williams is going to lose his lawsuit in a most spectacular fashion precisely because the statements repeated by Simon are false. Mr. Williams has a very bad habit of handing out fake quotations from documents that don’t exist, including that entirely fictitious “George Washington’s Prayer Journal” to his students and pushing his religious faith on them. As several parents reported, he can’t even teach basic 5th grade math without bringing up Jesus. More importantly, what does any of that have to do with the ACLU? They have no involvement with the case. Indeed, the one filing the lawsuit is the teacher. So why doesn’t Simon take the Alliance Defense Fund to task for trying to “intimidate” that poor local school district? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s not his ox being gored this time. But here is my favorite bit of idiocy from his article. After mentioning that the Ford Foundation gives a lot of money to the ACLU, he says:

It appears, however, that the ACLU’s agenda may have gotten too extreme even for some of its most ardent supporters. In late 2003, the New York Sun reported that the Ford Foundation had awarded grants to Palestinian organizations which may, in turn, have funneled some of those funds to terrorist groups in the region.

So let’s see…one of the many organizations that give money to the ACLU also gave money to unnamed organizations that, according to one obscure newspaper 2 years ago, may have given money to other unnamed groups that support terrorism. And this has something to do with the ACLU’s “agenda”?

In response, the Ford Foundation, along with the Rockefeller Foundation, now require all grant recipients to pledge that they will not use funds to support terrorist groups or terrorist activities. Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director, denounced this entirely reasonable requirement as an infringement on his group’s civil liberties, and said that the ACLU would not sign the pledge. As a result, the ACLU was forced to return some $1.1 million in grants from these two foundations.

Again, false. The pledge did not merely say that they wouldn’t support terrorist groups, it required all organizations to refuse to have anything to do with anyone who might appear on one of the government’s “watch lists”. But those watch lists are rife with errors and mistaken identities. Dozens of people, perhaps hundreds, have been grounded by the government’s “no fly list” and forbidden to fly because their name mistakenly found its way onto one of those lists. I know one couple, the husband being a 70 year old Holocaust survivor, who were forbidden to fly to Germany to complete the sale of property they owned, because their names were erroneously on that list. It took months to straighten it out and get their passports back. The ACLU rightly objected to the overly broad pledge, and they gave up over a million dollars rather than compromising that principle.

Mr. Simon, the only ones here with a frightening agenda are you and your ideological brethren who continue to play the role of demagogue where it concerns the ACLU. How many times does the Worldnutdaily have to be caught telling the same lies before they stop doing it? I don’t think there’s an answer to that. As long as their readers lap it up without engaging their brains, they’ll keep serving it up.


  1. #1 DonM
    January 25, 2005

    Great fisking, Ed :-)

    The problem is that those who might benefit from this will never see it. WND doesn’t have trackback or allow comments. Do you ever get any feedback or dialog from the wingnuts at WND?


  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    January 25, 2005

    The problem is that those who might benefit from this will never see it. WND doesn’t have trackback or allow comments. Do you ever get any feedback or dialog from the wingnuts at WND?

    None at all. I would love it if Farah, especially, would show up and try to defend himself and his rag. Would be quite amusing.

  3. #3 raj
    January 25, 2005

    There was a cabinet member during a Republican administration (I believe it was Reagan’s) who was named William Simon. I believe he was treasury secretary. Is this the same William Simon or another one?

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    January 25, 2005

    There was a cabinet member during a Republican administration (I believe it was Reagan’s) who was named William Simon. I believe he was treasury secretary. Is this the same William Simon or another one?

    I’m not sure. This William Simon ran for governor of California in 2002 and runs a private investment firm. That’s all it said in his little bio at the bottom of the page.

  5. #5 DonM
    January 25, 2005

    hmmm.. looks like 2 William E Simons

    Sec Treas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_E._Simon

    and this one

    likely a son


  6. #6 386sx
    January 25, 2005


    Bill Simon, a Reagan Republican,
    as California’s Next Governor?

    July 23, 2001

    Bill Simon, son of former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon Sr., served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York under then U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

  7. #7 Ed Darrell
    January 25, 2005

    Believe it or not, there was a time when William E. Simon was a respected person who fought to protect civil and economic liberties for all Americans. But that time is long past. . .

    (The elder Simon, our nation’s first Energy Czar, I met when he was in his first week as Secretary of the Treasury. He was a brilliant man, generally fair-minded — and probably way too liberal for today’s Republican Party. The son, you will recall, managed to lose the California governor’s race to Gray Davis, who was then recalled by the voters. The W. E. Simon who wrote that screed was so unpopular that he lost a two-way race with a guy most Californians thought was unqualified to be governor. Somewhere there is an odd hall of fame of particularly inept politicians with William E. Simon, Jr., and John Ashcroft as the only two inductees.)

  8. #8 Jim Anderson
    January 26, 2005

    Ed, as far as I can tell, WorldNutDaily.com is available. Time to start a counter-paper?

  9. #9 DonM
    January 26, 2005


    That is bloody effin’ BRILLIANT!!! :-)

    I’ll bet that PZ could also contribute some wonderful stuff to the new “magazine”… hohohoho


  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    January 26, 2005

    Ed, as far as I can tell, WorldNutDaily.com is available. Time to start a counter-paper?

    LOL. That has been mentioned to me before, but I scarcely have the time to take on another project at this point. Great idea though.

  11. #11 Liz Ditz
    February 1, 2005

    Oh, Ed, you are a bad influence on my ambition. Just when I crank up enough RPMs to take stupidity apart….you’ve already done it, and much much more effectively than I could ever dream of doing.

  12. #12 Lynn
    February 1, 2005

    Ed is a master of shredding stupidity. You should see him at work in chat rooms hahaha

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