Earlier this evening, someone I know received an e-mail from someone they know praising right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly for "uncovering the truth" about what the American Civil Liberties Union "really is". Unfortunately that e-mail was not sent to me, and I therefore do not have the right to respond to the person directly. So I'm posting my seethe here.
I am a card-carrying ACLU member. I know what the ACLU is, and what it is not. If you want to know, click the lj-cut below.
O'Reilly accused the ACLU of supporting issues ranging from abortion to child pornography. His entire rant was a distortion of one simple fact.
The ACLU exists for one reason, and one reason ONLY: To legally defend the rights of individual U.S. citizens as defined under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That is all they do. That is all they have ever done.
They do not defend opinions. They defend the right of people to express their opinion. They do not defend issues. They defend the right to gather in support of issues. They defend each individual's right to live their life according to their own conscience, without scrutiny or interference, as long as no other constitutional laws are broken in the process.
The ACLU does not only defend people with popular opinions. That would be both cowardly and unnecessary; by definition, popular opinion does not need defending. It is the unpopular and even outrageous opinion that will come under attack by the mainstream. But under our Constitution, even the person whose opinion makes your teeth grind has the right to express him or herself. I may seethe at Bill O'Reilly, but I would never insist that he be silenced. Unfortunately, he does not extend the same consideration to others.
The ACLU does not only defend those who support left-wing issues. They defended Rush Limbaugh's right to privacy when courts were trying to subpoena his medical records. Rush is another one that makes my teeth grind, but I acknowledge that he has the same right to privacy that I do and applaud the ACLU for their actions.
And for anyone who believes, like O'Reilly and that e-mail's author, that only certain opinions deserve expression and only certain kinds of people deserve rights, I have only one thing to say.
Any right you deny to another is a right you will lose yourself.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.