Carl Crider, one of our own Club members, spoke to the San Marcos Democratic Club meeting, held on October 10 at Lake San Marcos. He has been a member of the ACLU since 1967 and has followed its history and causes for the past fifty years. He currently is on the ACLU Board of Directors in the San Diego affiliate office. Their national office is in New York City, and their legislative office is in Washington D.C.
His knowledge and expertise captivated all in attendance with his presentation about the history and mission of the American Civil Liberties Union. While Roger Baldwin is often considered the founder, there was actually a group of people, including Helen Keller, who created the organization.
Formed in the 1920’s primarily to protect the rights of anti-war protesters protesting World War 1 the ACLU quickly enlarged its vision to include protecting the free speech rights of striking workers and artists. It also joined forces with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) confronting racism and discrimination.
Today the ACLU is the largest public interest law firm in America and is often the legal arm of organizations that are forced to take cases all the way to the Supreme Court. Carl stated it is the ACLU that has been fighting the legal battles of Planned Parenthood under so much attack recently.
The purpose of ACLU is to protect and promote civil liberties and civil rights through peaceful, legal means. With over 1,000 staff members, this organization performs without any government assistance. It is supported by over 500,000 dues paying members, as well as donations from its members, grants, and foundations. It has well over a million online activists.
Leading us through ACLU’s history, Crider began with the Palmer Raids that took place in the early 1920s. ACLU fought the harassment, mass arrests, and deportation of radicals at the height of the post war era “red scare.” In 1925, ACLU brought in Clarence Darrow for the Scopes “Monkey Trial.” In the ‘30s, they won the case allowing the novel, Ulysses, to be read.
In the ‘40s, they fought against the illegal Japanese Interment camps. In the ‘50s, they were actively involved in “Brown v. Board of Education” and the Civil Rights Movement overall. In 1969 they won an important free speech case involving students who wore pro-peace black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War in “Tinker v. Des Moines.” In 1973 they argued “Roe v. Wade” and “Doe v. Bolton.” In 1996 and 2003 they fought for LGBT rights.
After the 9/11 attack when our country was fearfully reeling from being struck on our own land, the Patriot Act was passed in which many freedoms were removed. The ACLU suspected that their phones were being tapped by the government and challenged government spying on its citizens, but a judge ruled they could not sue without proof. Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on NSA government wire tapping, called the ACLU and said he had their proof. They were then able to sue under the Freedom of Information Act.
In 2013, they won cases to deny the patenting of human genes, and allowing convicted criminals to retain voting rights. Currently, in 2015, Crider explained the use of “voluntary return” where people here illegally were coerced to sign papers that expelled them back to Mexico without the possibility of returning for 10 years. The ACLU won the case that any undocumented person entering a detention center must be given a paper that states their rights in their native language. Carl declared that ACLU’s position is everyone has rights that are within our borders regardless of whether they are legal status.
Current policy positions of the ACLU determined by their board include: opposing the death penalty; supporting same-sex marriage and the right of gays to adopt; supporting birth control and abortion rights; eliminating discrimination against women, minorities, and LGBT people; supporting the rights of prisoners and opposing torture; and opposing government preference for religion over non-religion, or for one faith over another. They are strongly involved in defending the separation of Church and State.
When asked during the question and answer period how they find people to represent their causes, Carl stated anyone can contact the ACLU if they consider their civil liberties to be at risk. One can visit their website, call directly, or leave a message in a box provided next to their office door.