This is the kind of hypocrisy that Conservatives and most reasonable liberals can
agree that the ACLU needs to do some house cleaning on. Via NY Times….
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.
“Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public
airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public
support and fund-raising,” the proposals state.
Given the organization’s longtime commitment to defending free speech, some former
board members were shocked by the proposals.
I would take a guess that there is some reason that those that are shocked are “former”
board members for a reason. How many times have we heard the ACLU ask the government
for transparency? Most people that believe in true free speech and the right to
dissent expect the ACLU to hold itself to the same ideological standards that it
asks of others.
Nat Hentoff, a writer and former A.C.L.U. board member, was incredulous.
“You sure that didn’t come out of Dick Cheney’s office?” he asked.
“For the national board to consider promulgating a gag order on its members
? I can’t think of anything more contrary to the reason the A.C.L.U. exists,”
Mr. Hentoff added.
The proposals say that “a director may publicly disagree with an A.C.L.U. policy
position, but may not criticize the A.C.L.U. board or staff.” But Wendy Kaminer,
a board member and a public critic of some decisions made by the organization’s
leadership, said that was a distinction without a difference.
“If you disagree with a policy position,” she said, “you are implicitly
criticizing the judgment of whoever adopted the position, board or staff.”
Anthony D. Romero, the A.C.L.U.’s executive director, said that he had not yet read
the proposals and that it would be premature to discuss them before the board reviews
them at its June meeting.
Mr. Romero said it was not unusual for the A.C.L.U. to grapple with conflicting
issues involving civil liberties. “Take hate speech,” he said. “While
believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities.”
However, they have no problem if the hate speech is toward American military members
at their funerals. It is hypocritical stances like this that brings about such
infighting from the pure ideologues to free speech, and those that have their own
agenda of only defending speech that they agree with. It sounds a lot like damage
control to me, and while I think most conflicts within any organization should be
given every effort to be resolved internally, to create a policy that essentially
puts a gag order on any dissent within only casts more doubt that the ACLU stands
by the principles in which it preaches. The “do as we say, not as we do”
attitude would keep many of the ACLU’s members and the general public unaware of
important issues in which they I would argue they have a right to know. When the
light has been shined on the hypocritical stances within the ACLU, many members
may not want the money they have been donating to support projects in which may
be in conflict with their own ideological stances. I thought the ACLU supported
watchdogs and whistle blowers. Obviously that philosphy only applies to leaking
classified national security information, and not their own organization.
Many ACLU supporters are seeing through the hypocrisy.
But some former board members and A.C.L.U. supporters said the
proposals were an effort to stifle dissent.
“It sets up a framework for punitive action,” said Muriel Morisey, a law
professor at Temple University who served on the board for four years until 2004.
Susan Herman, a Brooklyn Law School professor who serves on the board, said board
members and others were jumping to conclusions.
“No one is arguing that board members have no right to disagree or express
their own point of view,” Ms. Herman said. “Many of us simply think that
in exercising that right, board members should also consider their fiduciary duty
to the A.C.L.U. and its process ideals.”
When the committee was formed last year, its mission was to set standards on when
board members could be suspended or ousted.
The board had just rejected a proposal to remove Ms. Kaminer and Michael Meyers,
another board member, because the two had publicly criticized Mr. Romero and the
board for decisions that they contended violated A.C.L.U. principles and policies,
including signing a grant agreement requiring the group to check its employees against
government terrorist watch lists ? a position it later reversed ? and the use of
sophisticated data-mining techniques to recruit members.
Mr. Meyers lost his bid for re-election to the board last year, but Ms. Kaminer
has continued to speak out. Last month, she was quoted in The New York Sun as criticizing
the group’s endorsement of legislation to regulate advertising done by counseling
centers run by anti-abortion groups. The bill would prohibit such centers from running
advertisements suggesting that they provide abortion services when they actually
try to persuade women to continue their pregnancies.
Ms. Kaminer and another board member, John C. Brittain, charged that the proposal
threatened free speech. “I find it quite appalling that the A.C.L.U. is actively
supporting this,” Ms. Kaminer told The Sun.
There is much more internal fighting going on you can read about. Hopefully the
ACLU can work this out in a way that upholds their professed principles that they
demand from so many others. I’ve said before that if the ACLU can make some reforms
that they have the potential to be an organization that is good for the country.
Holding themselves to their own standards would be a great start.
Even if no action is taken, the new instructions make a statement
about the organization. The ACLU says by its consideration of this proposal that
it cannot withstand dissent, an odd position for an organization that based its
existence to protect dissent elsewhere. They seem to say that some dissent is tolerable
and others are not, and that the highest authorities hold the privilege of deciding
which is which. It’s interesting and terribly convenient that they would only apply
that philosophy to themselves.
If the ACLU were as transparent as it demands of everyone else,
we could know with certainty whether CAIR funding is having an undue influence on
the organization. Though the ACLU?s recent actions make such an investigation more
of a confirmation than anything else.
Heh, maybe the ACLU can sue itself.