Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Save the ACLU

The New York Times has an article up about Save the ACLU, a new group formed by dissidents within the group who want the current leadership ousted. I am in agreement with them, as I’ve said many times in the past. Anthony Romero has been a disaster as the ACLU’s executive director, though I am still a fan of board president Nadine Strossen. But when Ira Glasser and Wendy Kaminer say something’s got to change, I’m going to take notice and listen to them, as should all civil libertarians.

Comments

  1. #1 Coin
    September 26, 2006

    So what exactly is it that they’re complaining about? Do I understand correctly that the complaints are not about the direction or efficacy of the ACLU’s actions, but only about the manner in which the organization is internally run?

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    September 26, 2006

    The complains are many. First, Romero just isn’t a civil liberties guy, he’s a foundation guy. He’s good at fund raising as a result, but sometimes remarkably tone deaf when it comes to actual ACLU positions. He’s been known to fly off the handle at those who disagree with him and to try and stifle dissent within the organization. He sat idly by while the Florida ACLU appointed someone to their board who actually advocates laws against blasphemy – I can’t imagine a more anti-liberty position than that. Romero has been a disaster and the ACLU has lost many good people over it, people who have spent decades in the civil liberties battles. The ACLU deserves much better leadership.

  3. #3 steve s
    September 26, 2006

    hear hear!

    (ACLU since 2002)

  4. #4 RPM
    September 26, 2006

    Ed, I’m going to see Strossen debate Pat Buchanan tomorrow night. Should be bundles of fun.

  5. #5 Melody
    September 27, 2006

    He sat idly by while the Florida ACLU appointed someone to their board who actually advocates laws against blasphemy…

    OK. Wait a minute. Romero has NO CONTROL over what the ACLU of Florida does — particularly who is appointed to their Board. I understand frustrations with him, but let’s not misrepresent the situation. State affiliates are only that — affiliated. The national ACLU does not (and cannot) control local administration of those affiliates.

  6. #6 DuWayne
    September 27, 2006

    OK. Wait a minute. Romero has NO CONTROL over what the ACLU of Florida does — particularly who is appointed to their Board.

    Yes, but “sitting idly by” implies he didn’t even raise an objection. In terms of real authority Romero may not have control but as a leader in the national organization he should at least understand what the ACLU’s mission is, listen to the mebership and use his position to speak out against insane appointments such as the one in Florida. Cettainly a lot of national organizations have little or no real authority with local affiliates. But when those affiliates make decisions that cut directly against he grain of what that organizations about it behooves the national leadership to speak out and denounce such actions.

    In an extreme situation, the one in Florida borders on being such, the national organization has the right to denounce the entire affiliate. Considering the fracture that can cause an organization, it should not be used lightly and only after exausting every other option – but it should not be dismissed out of hand. In terms of “real” authority – no they don’t have it, but they can take steps to effect change, even at a local level.

  7. #7 Melody
    September 27, 2006

    Here’s the interesting conflict – however. I thought this particular board member made the offending statements as an individual (or as a CAIR representative), not as a representative of the ACLU of Florida. If National were to denounce a position espoused by an individual, they would certianly run up against other First Amendment criticisms. You can’t actually expect all ACLU affiliate Board members across the country to maintain personal views that are always in line with the larger ACLU policy positions. Not only is that impossible, it is simply unwanted.

  8. #8 DuWayne
    September 27, 2006

    You can’t actually expect all ACLU affiliate Board members across the country to maintain personal views that are always in line with the larger ACLU policy positions. Not only is that impossible, it is simply unwanted.

    Why? I mean certainly on the nuts and bolts end of running an organization you shouldn’t stifle dissent at all. But when your talking about a civil liberties organization with a local affiliate’s board containing someone who supports a law that is absolutely contrary to civil liberties, I fail to see why they should be acceptable at all. Why put someone who is personaly against civil liberties in a position of power in the ACLU? It makes no sense at all.

  9. #9 Jason I.
    September 27, 2006

    Melody said:

    You can’t actually expect all ACLU affiliate Board members across the country to maintain personal views that are always in line with the larger ACLU policy positions.

    That’s generally true. However, I would say in this particular case that making public statements that go 100% against what the ACLU stands for would be highly undesirable. This might also be a big indicator that maybe this guy shouldn’t be on the ACLU board.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    September 27, 2006

    Melody wrote:

    Romero has NO CONTROL over what the ACLU of Florida does — particularly who is appointed to their Board. I understand frustrations with him, but let’s not misrepresent the situation. State affiliates are only that — affiliated. The national ACLU does not (and cannot) control local administration of those affiliates.

    He may have no official control, but they can certainly put pressure on the Florida group to reverse the decision.

    Here’s the interesting conflict – however. I thought this particular board member made the offending statements as an individual (or as a CAIR representative), not as a representative of the ACLU of Florida. If National were to denounce a position espoused by an individual, they would certianly run up against other First Amendment criticisms. You can’t actually expect all ACLU affiliate Board members across the country to maintain personal views that are always in line with the larger ACLU policy positions. Not only is that impossible, it is simply unwanted.

    There is no first amendment issue here. The ACLU is a private organization, not the government. And I totally disagree that the ACLU can’t expect its board members to be civil libertarians. That is, after all, the entire reason the group exists. They are private citizens whether they are on the board or not, and they not only have a right to require board members to be civil libertarians, they have a responsibility to their membership to do so. You simply cannot advocate blasphemy laws and call yourself a civil libertarian. He has no more business on the board of the ACLU than I have on the board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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