as a law student, i too was caught in the fervor for fighting for individual rights. i thought about how cool would it be to work at the aclu. i would have loved to have worked on freedom of the press and first amendment issues.
the case of roman catholic diocese of brooklyn, new york vs. andrew m. cuomo governor of new york gave me great pause with respect to the aclu being a quality organization representing all americans with respect to their civil liberties.
the diocese is an epic case that shows how government can oppress religious liberty. it seemed like a no brainer for the aclu to be involved. my review of the pleadings found them absent as a participant. when i reviewed their website under highlights, i found that the ny aclu site makes no mention of the case.
the aclu website, however, notes that “[t]he aclu vigorously defends the rights of all americans, from christians to members of minority faiths, to practice their religion.” aclu
where was the aclu in the diocese case? where was there there vigorous defense for catholics and orthodox jews[in the companion case] in the diocese case?
the aclu website boasts about defending fringe groups on their first amendment rights. their website boasts about the following:
“[i]n 1978, the aclu took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a neo-nazi group that wanted to march through the chicago suburb of skokie , where many holocaust survivors lived. the notoriety of the case caused some aclu members to resign, but to many others the case has come to represent the alcu’s unwavering commitment to principle. In fact, many of the laws the aclu cited to defend the group’s right to free speech and assembly were the same laws it had invoked during the civil rights era, when southern cities tried to shut down civil rights marches with similar claims about the violence and disruption the protests would cause. although the aclu prevailed in its free speech arguments, the neo-nazi group never marched through skokie, instead agreeing to stage a rally at federal plaza in downtown chicago.”
for the aclu, defending neo-nazi’s first amendment rights worthy of defense. for the aclu, defending catholics’ and orthodox jews’ religious liberty not worthy of defense.
are the aclu’s statements of representing all americans mere puffery? the facts seen to bear it out.
to law students and lawyers seeking to do civil rights work, i recommend that you look elsewhere for opportunities. the lawyers in the diocese case is proof that there are great lawyers for civil rights cases that are not part of the aclu.
i wish you best of luck on your endeavors.