Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I’ve written before about this stupid argument, which is all too common among the anti-ACLU crowd. They find a case where someone’s rights were violated but they’re represented by some other group and say, “A ha! Where was the ACLU? They aren’t defending this group just because they don’t like what they say.” But rarely is this argument stated quite so idiotically as in this post by Jay at STACLU.

The argument is dumb enough in any form, for one obvious reason: the ACLU can only file a case where the client has asked them to represent them. They don’t file cases on behalf of themselves, they file them on behalf of clients. In this case, a group of anti-abortion protestors says the police harrassed them and took their signs away (and if that’s true, I hope the police get nailed for it). But if you were an anti-abortion group, would you rather be defended by the ACLU or by the ADF or some other group that agrees with you? In this case, the group went to the ADF, who is representing them. So it’s dumb enough that Jay is making this argument:

Yoo hoo??? ACLU???? Where are you???…One would think that an organization that prides itself as the protector of freech would have been quick to the scene of political protestors, especially with accusations of police intimidation…Protesting abortion is another matter though. The abortion movement is the ACLU’s most lucrative project and its number one priority…Once again, the ACLU has a golden opportunity to prove me and other critics wrong about their double standards of free speech when it comes to abortion.

It’s a dumb enough argument on its own, since it’s highly unlikely that the ACLU ever had the chance to represent this group in the first place. If they actually had evidence that the ACLU had turned down the case, then they might have an argument. But evidence? For these guys? Who needs evidence when you’ve got perfectly good illogical smears?

But the argument becomes even more ridiculous when you see this statement in the same post:

If it would have been a nutcase cult protesting gay hate at a soldier’s funeral the ACLU would have found it speech worthy of protection.

So here’s their argument, in a nutshell: “The ACLU only cares about free speech when it agrees with the content of the speech. They won’t defend abortion protestors because they strongly support abortion and that’s a double standard.” Yet in this very same post, he cites their defense of a virulently anti-gay group while the ACLU supports gay rights every bit as strongly as they support abortion rights. So he’s citing an example in his own post that disproves his argument, and isn’t bright enough to realize it.

Of course, he also ignores all the cases in which the ACLU has defended abortion protestors. For instance, in Ohio they represented a preacher who was denied the right to carry on an abortion protest during a parade. They’ve represented street preachers who preach against abortion all over the country, in Indiana, in Iowa, in Nevada and in New Mexico. Those cases are conveniently ignored by the STACLUless because they’re darn inconvenient and it’s much more rational to stick their fingers in their ears and yell LA LA LA LA LA LA instead.


  1. #1 jba
    November 22, 2006

    “If it would have been a nutcase cult protesting gay hate at a soldier’s funeral the ACLU would have found it speech worthy of protection.”

    I think one of us is reading this wrong (or possibly Jay wrote it poorly) but I read ‘protesting gay hate’ as protesting against hate. That would make it at least consistant with his stated views… if not more worthy. I think it would have been much more clear if he had put ‘protesting for/against’ in. Of course, from the little Ive read of his stuff, clear isnt his thing. Either way he is completely overlooking the fact that the ACLU doesnt just file suit for people without them asking.

  2. #2 Ted
    November 22, 2006

    What was the relationship of the 2006 Superbowl to abortion? Was it sponsored by AbortAmerica?

    I think I remember these nice people from their signs. Maybe it was another group — they used to swarm all over downtown Chicago a few years back, and as you walked by, they’d get in the way and hold up the sign to you as you walked by. I think the proximate street vendors in the area may have suffered due to these 10′ signs every 50 feet.

    I’m just curious about the implications of this to shops and businesses in the area. You know, shop owners attempt to attract business by whatever legal means possible to pay for their retail space and workers, and this stuff goes on out front piggybacking on the population draw and marketing expenses. Oh yum; the perfect environment to conduct business.

    Would zoning laws come into play on this?

  3. #3 jpf
    November 22, 2006

    I think the key to understanding what Jay was trying to say is the phrase “nutcase cult”. I think he’s implying that the ACLU will only defend the crazies who call themselves Christian (as opposed to the true sensible Christians like the ones in this case) so the ACLU can bring attention to the nuts in order to discredit Christianity in general. Haven’t the STACLU been saying that the ACLU only takes the side of Christians as some sort of nefarious calculated move to hide their true evil agenda?

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    November 22, 2006


    Well that might be their position, but if so it’s stunningly stupid. The valedictorian here in Michigan who wanted to use a Bible verse in her yearbook profile was hardly a nut. Nor the children in Massachusetts who wanted to hand out candy canes with religious messages attached to them. Nor the Virginia church who wanted to use a public park for baptisms. All those groups were represented by the ACLU.

  5. #5 jpf
    November 22, 2006

    Well, I’m not saying that the arguments coming from STACLU are non-stupid or even consistent. As you said, they overlook cases that don’t match their prejudice. It’s just the use of a “nutcase cult” (i.e. Christians he disapproves of) as a counter example by Jay makes it sound as if he’s making some sort of point and not merely contradicting himself.

    Then again, “protesting gay hate” makes no sense in that context, so maybe I’m just reading too much reason into Jay.

  6. #6 Sastra
    November 22, 2006

    If it would have been a nutcase cult protesting gay hate at a soldier’s funeral the ACLU would have found it speech worthy of protection.

    When I read this it sounded to me as if Jay has completely misunderstood Phelps group, and thinks that they protest against American soldiers for defending a country that hates gays, and refuses them civil rights. Or perhaps he wasn’t trying to refer to Phelps’ group at all, but to some hypothetical nutcase LIBERAL cult that hates America, hates freedom, and wants to outlaw anyone who doesn’t think being gay is peaches and cream. Yeah, the ACLU would defend THEM all right, if they existed. Even if they protested at the funerals of patriots who died fighting for their freedom to promote perversion as “normal.”

    Is that what Jay meant? Not sure, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    November 22, 2006

    No, the STACLU crowd has been upset at the ACLU’s defense of Phelps’ group because they protest military funerals (not a peep out of them when they were just protesting gay funerals, of course).

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