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ACLU Considers Restricting Board Members’ Speech

Stumbled upon the story on Captain’s Quarters and reported by the NYT:

The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization’s policies and internal administration.

“Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement,” the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.

It goes on… the tales of infighting on the board are rather fun. It’ll be interesting to see if the ACLU, which usually defends free speech (granted, they generally only defend speech they don’t disagree with), will impose restrictions on the speech of board members. They’ll certainly lose credibility among some people, but the unwashed masses will probably never notice.

  1. Bryan says:

    Michael, is it your opinion that there are no Christians within the ACLU– that the ACLU categorically disagrees with Christianity? I wonder if you suspect that the ACLU would defend a hypothetical public high school’s right to invoke praises of the KKK or a neo-Nazi party in its graduation ceremony. Or perhaps you suspect that the ACLU would fight to prevent a church organization from gathering in a public space? I think that perhaps the bone of contention here is a difference of opinion regarding whether a public high school should be regarded an aspect of the state.

  2. Simg says:

    Actually, retract that. I just realized the humor and the joke. Ignore me.

  3. Simg says:

    Might want to look at your links Bryan. The third one is to an Onion article, not exactly a reputable source for news.

  4. Matt P. says:

    Well, Michael, I do sympathize with your plight. It seems it’s possible to fall so in love with defending Establishment that you forget about your best buddy and loyal wingman, Free Speech.

    I think at graduation it’s time to enter the real world. They can let go of the leash. It’s absurd for the ACLU to be advocating in favor of the school censoring student speech (Tinker comes to mind) on behalf of the Establishment clause.

    I personally wouldn’t mind if you were to use your valedictorian speech to exquisitely detail a sex act. The Captive Audience

  5. Michael G. says:

    Bryan, it’s because the Nazis and the KKK aren’t major religions.

    The ACLU would have a lot to say if you were valedictorian in high school and wanted to have a component of your speech be “I want to thank God for …”

    I haven’t had much respect for the ACLU after they came down on my high school for that very thing. Big freaking deal. You don’t want to hear it, just tune it out. It’s not like I never had to do that for all the rhetoric I heard from teachers at the very same school.

    Personally, I think if you earn the right to a speech at graduation, you should be able to say whatever you want. The school failing to stop it is not the same as an endorsement.

  6. Miles Rost says:


  7. Matt says:

    Agh, Media Matters is wrong about this. They seem to be suggesting the good old “hypocrisy” argument everyone loves: “If you publish (something that offends person A), you get run out of town, but if you publish (something that offends person B), it’s free speech. I’M IRRATIONALLY ANGRY ABOUT THAT ‘OBVIOUS’ HYPOCRISY!” The problem, of course, is that it does not apply here.

    Thanks Casey. Time to dig out my old Media Matters login…

  8. Casey says:

    I’m insinuating that Bill O’Reilly’s idea of “responsible” (at least as it pertains to people not named Bill O’Reilly) is not something that anyone with half a brain and any interest in personal freedom would value. It’s a compliment, really.

  9. Olly says:

    Thanks, Casey – I did have a blog post underway on that, but the confluence of Bill O’Reilly and Media Matters’ bizarro-world logic on this issue caused my head to temporarily explode.

    (On another note: what the hell are you insinuating, sir? Of course the OC is responsible! Responsible for what, is another question.)

  10. Casey says:

    Thought ya’ll should know you’ve been mentioned on Media Matters here. You think there’s any chance O’Reilly has ever read the Commentator? I doubt he’d consider it “responsible.”

  11. Timothy says:

    You know, I think it’s a bad PR move, but the ACLU is a private organization and they can require their board members to wear skirts and dance the polka as far as I’m concerned. They’ve a right to do it, even if it is dumb. Same way a corporation can require board members not to say nasty things in the press.

  12. Matt says:

    Yeah, my biggest problem with the ACLU is their complete ignorance of amendment #2. They occasionally (not as often) come to bat on #4, association, and exercise. I wouldn’t even mind if they made the minimal effort of issuing a statement like: “Like the rest of the Bill of Rights, we believe the 2nd Amendment also embodies a valuable American freedom. Frankly, however, the NRA has that covered.”

    I don’t know; it’s still fun to see people’s faces when you tell them you’re a member of both organizations. But that’s more of an added bonus to actually trying to respect the principle of civil liberties.

    Granted, I agree that imposing restrictions on their board members is absurd.

  13. Timothy says:

    I wish they had as good a record on free association and free exercise as they do on establishment. Also, that they’d actually defend amendment #2, and #4.

  14. Bryan says:

    While I can’t claim to keep constant tabs on the activities of the ACLU, the characterization that they generally only defend those they don’t disagree with strikes me as unfair. I mean, consider this and this, which I guess leads to this.

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