From the (off-site) Archives: Mormons and the ACLU

Over two years ago, I posted a series of posts on reasons to support the ACLU, and whether a Mormon could or should support the ACLU, on my personal blog. The discussion that ensued was one of the contributing factors to the formation of Times and Seasons. Given that the conversation around here turns to this topic from time to time, I thought it might be useful to move that set of posts over here. They are lightly edited for context and updating. (For the original posts, see here and here.)

Can a Mormon Support the ACLU?

I am both a church member and a genuine ACLU contributor (a “card-carrying member of the ACLU”). I understand the dislike some church members have for the ACLU. I don’t agree with every position the ACLU has ever taken. However, I think that it serves a very important role in protecting underrepresented and minority groups. And in doing so, it protects LDS members even more than the general populace. This is, of course, because Mormons are, nationwide, very much an underrepresented group. Because the ACLU protects my rights as a member of a religious minority, my ACLU membership is very important to me as a Mormon.

ACLU Protection of Church Members

A threshold question is whether support for the ACLU is prohibited given the lawsuits filed by the ACLU, in Utah, against the church. Given these suits, members may perceive the ACLU as an organization that opposes Mormon beliefs. Members may be less familiar with the ACLU’s efforts to protect church members’ rights to religious freedom outside of the Mormon corridor.

While in Utah, it may be possible to lose sight of the fact that Mormons are an underrepresented minority nationwide. However, in most of the country, we are a politically weak (politically non-existent) minority, and the ACLU helps prevent other majority religions from oppressing us.

I don’t know how many LDS people are aware that one of the lead plaintiffs in Santa Fe v. Doe, which struck down some “school prayer” programs, was an LDS student. That plaintiff was an LDS student who had been harassed by other students and teachers for being LDS, had been told by teachers that the church was wrong. That is, of course, exactly the kind of behavior majority groups can inflict on minority groups.

The ACLU suit in that case had several effects. For the LDS plaintiff, the suit had the effect that school officials could no longer harass LDS students (i.e. the plaintiff) and tell them that the church was wrong. That’s a good result for church members everywhere, which is why I am consistently surprised by the number of e-mails I get from LDS relatives about why “school prayer” is good. As the facts of Santa Fe point out, “School prayer” = license to harass LDS kids. Why exactly am I supposed to like that?

I’m not a Utah Mormon. I’ve never lived in Utah (except for a month at the MTC). I have lived in Mesa, Arizona for several years, which is similar in many respects to Utah, but I’ve also lived large stretches of life in areas where church members were practically unknown. I lived for several years in Oklahoma, where I was one of a handful of LDS kids at the school. I also lived for some time in New York, where my children were among the only LDS students at their school.

Being an LDS member in a non-LDS area made me very grateful for the ACLU. I am glad that no one is teaching my son prayers at school. I’ll do that myself, thank you very much. I’m glad that groups like the ACLU prevent the state from blatantly supporting religions, because any support would go to groups I am not a part of.

I sometimes joke that I should pay $20 a year in extra tithing to cancel out negative effects of my ACLU membership dues. But the fact is, I find my ACLU membership very much consistent with being a church member.

Other Aspects of the ACLU

The previous section discussed whether the direct clashes between the church and the ACLU rule out support for the ACLU by a church member. This section will discuss whether other aspects of the ACLU’s political beliefs are at odds with church beliefs. That question turns out to be quite complex.

There is a need to examine more than just religious litigation. Religious litigation is not irreconcilable with church beliefs. However, it is conceivable that the ACLU may have other beliefs which are not reconcilable with church membership. That is, an organization could be compatible with church membership based on its position on religious litigation, but could be anathema to church membership because of beliefs in other areas.

The general proposition from which to begin, then, is that for ACLU membership to be consistent with church membership, such a position should be free from conflict not only in the religious-litigation arena, but in all substantive areas. If an ACLU position is found to be irreconcilable with church doctrine, then church membership may not be consistent with ACLU membership.

Threshold point: The distinction between religious commandment and legal law

A threshold point, which is vital in this discussion, is the recognition that an act may be spiritually condemned — it may be a sin — while at the same time legally permitted — it is not a crime. (The reverse, of course, also holds true — an act may be a crime but not a sin).

This characteristic is inherent in non-theocratic legal systems (and, it could be argued, it exists in some theocratic systems as well, to the extent they are not based on correct doctrine). The United States is a non-theocratic legal system. As LDS members, we may support non-theocratic legal systems, and indeed are encouraged to do so. (See Article of Faith #12). (Some theocratic systems are also spoken of highly in scripture; but, the government of the United States, which is non-theocratic, is explicitly approved in scripture).

Because we are encouraged to support this non-theocratic system, an LDS member can believe acts are sins, independent of any determination by the state that such acts should or should not be considered crimes. There are numerous examples of sins that are not crimes: Everything from alcohol consumption or pre-marital sex, to non-belief in Christ or non-payment of tithing, are sins — yet they are generally not crimes. (It is also true, of course, that some sins are crimes, but this is not a universal correlation).

Understanding the sin / crime distinction is central to reconciling church and ACLU membership because, at their core, the two organizations focus on different areas entirely. The church is concerned with spiritual laws, on obedience to commandments which will result in eternal life in the world to come. The ACLU is focused on temporal laws, and on the effects of laws that govern our physical acts. The church focuses on which acts can draw God’s condemnation, while the ACLU focuses on which acts can draw the state’s condemnation. They operate largely in independent spheres.

This discussion foreshadows much of the later analysis. At this point, it is sufficient that the reader realize that certain acts can be sins while not being crimes — that is, that there exists a sin / crime distinction — and that this distinction is entirely consistent with LDS doctrine.

A related note is necessary here: The Scriptures do indicate that societies in which temporal laws deviate too sharply from spiritual laws will face the anger of God. (See, e.g., Mosiah 29:27). The import of this principle on behavior is not clear. LDS members should strive to instruct and set an example for their neighbors. Should the sin / crime differential become too great, the scriptures tell us that society will be ripe for destruction. However, church members are not encouraged to go against the democratic or legal process (Mosiah 29:26).

The conclusion on this point is that the sin / crime distinction exists, and that LDS members should expect it to exist. It is not itself a bad thing. However, too broad of a sin / crime gap can lead to God’s punishment.

Second threshold point: Balancing of good

A second threshold point is what I will call the balancing of the good. Many organizations have beliefs or teachings that stretch across a large number of subject categories. The church is such an organization; so are many political organizations including the ACLU.

In considering the merits of an organization, it seems to me to be necessary to consider the balance of good — that is, if an organization has taken several positions on several different subjects, that a church member weigh the total (how many positions she agrees on, how many she does not) in order to decide whether or not to support that organization.

This principle is common in politics. A person may vote for a Democrat because he agrees with that candidate’s view on the environment, even if he disagree with her view on abortion. A voter may vote for a Republican because he agrees with a candidate’s view on taxes, even if he disagrees with her view on gun control. Balancing of the good is a practice that church members (and other people) are accustomed to engaging in.

Examples of Balancing of the Good

A few examples can help illustrate the principle of balancing the good. For one example, consider the American Heart Association. It has published papers about how drinking 1-2 glasses of red wine per day can cut down on cardiovascular disease. The AHA does not make an across the board recommendation, because they say that alcohol use for this reason should be discussed with the physician, but notes that “Moderate intake of alcoholic beverages (1 to 2 drinks per day) is associated with a reduced risk of CHD in populations.” This statement — that drinking wine can be good for one’s health — is a position counter to the Word of Wisdom.

A second example can be found in many (if not most) scientific organizations. For our example, we will use the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Institution, a wonderful museum and resource, also supports the theory of evolution. Such a position is counter to what might be considered the current official beliefs of the church on that issue, though the church position is not entirely clear.

Can an LDS member donate to either organization? Certainly. The LDS member may quite reasonably feel that the good work done by the AHA is important enough to support them, despite its statements on alcohol use, or that the Smithsonian (or other museum or scientific society) is important enough to support despite any disagreement on creation. The same principle could apply to donation or assistance to Catholic charities, even though they have contrary beliefs on the priesthood and the authority of the Prophet, or to donations to one’s alma mater, even if the school leadership has expressed beliefs contrary to church doctrines.

Balancing of the good is a practice that LDS members can and should engage in. Church members should not reserve their generosity for perfect organizations, but should actively strive to improve society, even through (or especially through) imperfect organizations, as long as those organizations have a balance which favors the good.

Recap

To recap the points discussed thus far, they are:

(1) Church members should examine all facets of ACLU belief to see if it conflicts with church doctrine;
(2) The existence of a sin / crime distinction is not counter to church belief, provided the gap between the two is not too great;
(3) Organizations should be judged on a “balancing of the good” test.

I will now discuss some substantive areas of church doctrine and ACLU belief.

Potential Areas of Conflict

The first step we will take in reviewing the doctrines of the two organizations for conflicts is to make a preliminary assessment of areas where any conflicts are likely to exist. At this stage, the assessment will be a largely intuitive matter, a simple listing of areas of law or politics where, based on my observation, church members often seem to be at odds with the ACLU or its perceived position.

And at first glance, there are several areas in which it seems possible church doctrine and ACLU belief could come into conflict. These include drugs, abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, immigration, welfare, gay and lesbian issues, women’s rights, gun control, prisoners’ rights, the Boy Scouts, and national security. We will now begin a closer examination to see which of these issues (if any) present real potential conflicts, and which are red herrings.

Drugs

The church position on drugs is clear: Drug use is a violation of the Word of Wisdom and is contrary to the commandments.

The ACLU stance on drugs is quite different. The organization argues that the “war of drugs” should be ended and that most drugs should be decriminalized. The ACLU has litigated against mandatory minimum sentencing laws and against drug policies that are perceived as having a disproportionate impact on minorities.

These two positions are certainly different. However, they are very much reconcilable. The church position is that one should not use illegal drugs — just as one should not use alcohol, tobacco, tea or coffee. This spiritual admonition does not require an accompanying legal ban. In fact, for every other aspect of the Word of Wisdom, there is no accompanying legal ban. Tobacco, alcohol, coffee and tea are perfectly legal substances. Church members are not required to maintain abolitionist positions on these substances.

To put this in terms of the prior discussion on sin and crime, the LDS belief in that use of some substances is wrong (sin) does not require members to support legal restrictions on the use of such substances (crime). As long as the ACLU is not actually promoting drug use — and I have seen no evidence that it is — its position in favor of decriminalization of drugs does not appear to conflict with a belief in the validity of the Word of Wisdom.

The Death Penalty

The ACLU is opposed to the use of the death penalty.

It has been my experience that many church members favor the death penalty. Utah is a death penalty state. There has been some media coverage of Utah’s practice of firing squad executions and this has been attributed to Mormon belief.

Such a connection is tenuous at best. Despite public sentiment in favor of the death penalty, there is no requirement that church members support the death penalty. The church has no position on the death penalty that I could locate.

(Church members who support the death penalty can point out that there is no lack of scriptural verses which could be used to support a belief in the death penalty (such as Captain Moroni’s execution of dissenters in Alma 62:9-10). However, there are an equal number of scriptural statements which could be used to support a position against the death penalty, such as Matthew 5:38-39 or John 8:3-11. The scriptures do not clearly indicate that either position is correct.)

Because the church has no position on the death penalty, there is no conflict between its position and the ACLU position.

Welfare

The church encourages self-sufficiency and hard work. The ACLU has litigated against restrictions on welfare and opposes many so-called “welfare reform” statutes.

Is the ACLU position contrary to the church’s position? There is no reason to think that the two cannot coexist. The church encourages people to work for a living, and promotes ideas such as self-sufficiency and emergency preparedness. Such a belief can coexist with the idea that some people may need welfare assistance due to lack of education, emotional or physical handicaps, addictions, or other long-term problems. In fact, many scriptures emphasize the need to give to the poor — which is exactly what the ACLU focuses on.

There is room for disagreement, since church members may think that the ACLU’s tactics are not the most effective way to help the poor. However, there is nothing inherent in the ACLU’s position on welfare that is irreconcilable with church beliefs.

Affirmative Action and Racial Justice

The ACLU supports affirmative action. On other race-related issues, the ACLU has worked to protect voting rights of minorities and has litigated against police abuse against minorities.

On many of these issues, such as police abuse or voting rights, there is obviously no conflict. The church has no position on affirmative action. However, church leaders are required to be called by revelation. (See Article of Faith 5). Thus, it seems likely that the church would be opposed to any requirement that its appointment of leaders be subject to affirmative action. However, the ACLU has not, to my knowledge, advocated such a position. The Civil Rights Act has an exception for religious organizations, and in addition the Supreme Court has firmly established a right to appoint ecclesiastical leaders without state regulation.

(The church’s previously held position that Blacks could not hold the priesthood may have been criticized by the ACLU. I do not know whether or not this is true; the church has had its new policy for as long as I can remember).

Thus, I do not see any conflict between church doctrines and the ACLU’s support of affirmative action and other laws intended to help racial minorities.

Immigration, Prisoners’ Rights, National Security, and Gun Control

I group these four together because I think they are truly red herrings. The ACLU does have positions on many of these topics. And the ACLU position is often, in my experience, at odds with individually held political beliefs of some church members. The church, however, does not have positions on these topics, and there is no reason a church member cannot support the ACLU positions in these areas.

Recap of Discussion thus far

Thus far, the discussion has examined ACLU beliefs relating to many issues and found no conflict with church doctrines. These areas are drugs, death penalty, affirmative action, welfare, and some red herrings (gun control, immigration, prisoners’ rights, and national security). Each of these areas has needed only a brief discussion to establish the lack of conflict between ACLU and church beliefs.

There remain three major areas (and one tangential area) of potential conflict which will require more in-depth discussion. The three major areas are women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, and abortion; the tangential area is the Boy Scouts.

Women’s Rights

The ACLU has litigated in favor of women’s rights and fought workplace discrimination. The church, meanwhile, has stated that men and women have different roles in God’s plan, especially in the care of the family.

Many of the ACLU’s actions regarding women’s rights are clearly compatible with church beliefs. There is no church doctrine, for example, supporting sexual harassment or workplace discrimination in most settings. Ecclesiastical positions, as noted above, are exempted under law so do not present a problem.

There is one aspect of women’s rights where the ACLU position is at odds with the church position. That is the Equal Rights Amendment. The ACLU supports the ERA while the church has opposed it (see this article).

Much of the church’s opposition to the ERA appears to be based on issues which will be addressed later in the discussion (homosexual issues and abortion) and which may have their own solutions (as we will discuss). However, the fact remains that the ACLU supports the ERA and the church discourages its members from supporting the ERA. This is a direct conflict which can only be resolved by a “balancing of the good” (as discussed in the first post) — that is, a church member may support the ACLU if he feels that the good that they do outweighs any harm from their support of the ERA.

Abortion

The church is opposed to abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life or health of the mother. The ACLU has a strongly pro-choice position, defending a woman’s right to an abortion and litigation against restrictions on that ability.

These positions are at odds. Much of the difference can be reconciled by reference to the sin / crime distinction. That is, it is possible to believe that abortion is a sinful act, which a church member should not engage in, and also to believe that abortion is a subject which is not appropriate for state regulation.

However, it is difficult to fully reconcile all of the ACLU position — including opposition to parental notification, abstinence education, and hospital choice about whether to provide abortions — with the church position. It seems to me to be possible to reconcile all of the ACLU position by using the crime / sin distinction. But a more comfortable reconciliation, at least for me, is done by balancing the good — recognizing that the ACLU does much good, and either refusing to accept the entire ACLU position on abortion, or finding that, on balance, any harm caused by the ACLU position on abortion is outweighed by the good the organization does.

Homosexual Rights (also addressing Boy Scouts)

The church has strongly opposed homosexual behavior as well as gay marriage. The ACLU, in contrast, defends homosexual rights including gay marriage.

These positions appear very dissimilar. But there are many aspects in which there is no disagreement. For example, the church believes homosexual acts are a sin. The ACLU does not dispute this characterization. Similarly, the ACLU has brought cases and advocated that gay kids not be discriminated against at school; that gay employees not be discriminated against at work; and that laws criminalizing homosexual behavior be struck down. None of those positions are contrary to official church position.

In short, there are many areas within the rubric of “homosexual rights” where there is no direct conflict between church position and the ACLU position. Much of the lack of conflict can be traced to the sin / crime distinction. However, there are areas with more direct conflicts. Those areas deserve some attention:

Gay marriage

The church is opposed to gay marriage, while the ACLU has argued that it should be legally allowed. This area is actually less problematic than it first appears. A church member can believe (1) that gay marriage is wrong — that it is a sin — because homosexuality is contrary to gospel commandments, but (2) that the state should not discriminate in this area, i.e. should permit gay marriage. Such a position is consistent with the sin / crime distinction.

The issue is complicated, however, by the fact that the church has campaigned against gay marriage in California. This gives some indication that church members should not support gay marriage. I am unsure of what weight to give the fact that the church has campaigned politically on this issue. It may still be possible to resolve differences in gay marriage using the sin / crime distinction. To the extent that church activity in the political arena suggests that this distinction could not be employed to reconcile the two positions, the church member must use the balancing of the good test, and could reasonably conclude that the good done by the ACLU outweighs any harm done by their position on gay marriage.

Gay adoption

A very similar outcome applies to gay adoption. Again, the church does not support adoption by homosexuals, while the ACLU has supported a right to such adoptions. Again, the difference can be reconciled at least in part by reference to the sin / crime distinction — it may not be inconsistent to agree on spiritual condemnation of behavior while allowing the state’s criminal or civil laws to permit such behavior. And again, the church’s political statements make me unsure that the difference can be fully resolved using the sin / crime distinction. Any difference that cannot be resolved using the sin / crime distinction could reasonably be resolved under the balancing of the good test.

Boy Scouts

The final potential issue, which is related to gay rights, is the difference of opinion regarding the Boy Scouts. The church has supported the Supreme Court decision allowing the Boy Scouts to exclude homosexuals, while the ACLU opposes that decision. This issue is peripheral. The difference can be explained using the sin / crime distinction — it may be morally right for the Supreme Court to rule as it did, but constitutionally inconsistent. As for the underlying issue, again, it is quite possible, using the sin / crime distinction, to maintain that the Boy Scouts are required under the Civil Rights Act to admit homosexuals, while also believing that homosexual acts are not allowed under gospel principles.

Conclusion

This lengthy discussion has shown, I hope, that ACLU membership can be consistent with church belief. Not all church members will support the ACLU, of course. Because this discussion has relied in part on a balancing test for which individual members will have different results, it is possible that many church members will find ACLU membership to be inconsistent with their personal church membership. However, the balancing tests may also, depending on the member’s feelings on the issues, reasonably be resolved in the other way, allowing (as in my case) for ACLU membership consistent with church membership.

This discussion has treated the statements and positions of both organizations in a substantially similar, impartial way. I recognize that church membership is very different than ACLU membership. Church membership is a way of life, while ACLU membership is a small political statement. I know that the church is true and have a testimony of the church in a way that I will never have with the ACLU, or any other purely temporal organization.

However, I do think that the ACLU does much good in the world today. I am proud of both my church membership and my ACLU membership. I believe that both organizations do many important things. And because I find both organizations to be beneficial, I am very happy to be a member of them both.

46 comments for “From the (off-site) Archives: Mormons and the ACLU

  1. lyle
    October 6, 2005 at 9:32 am

    As usual, Kaimi makes fine points. However, his summary doesn’t respond to the chief criticism of the ACLU: That it only defends so-called “minority” positions (i.e. almost always liberal positions) and will not stand up for the civil rights of other groups except in mostly extreme circumstances. While I haven’t seen a scientifically created, statistically significant case percentage comparison, I’m satisified of this charge from anecdotal accounts. For several years (2002-2004) I was a card-carrying member of the ACLU. However, their mailings, fundraising letters, etc. made it clear that it was an organization that was largely captured by the left and didn’t stand for many of the values that I supported. On balance, I let my membership lapse for this reason. An ACLU that actually did what it said it was doing is an organization I would be proud to be a member of.

  2. October 6, 2005 at 9:57 am

    Just a minor point, but I believe that the ACLU is opposed to abstinence-only education, not “abstinence education.” There’s an important distinction between the two.

  3. GeorgeD
    October 6, 2005 at 10:02 am

    Add the ACLU’s support for convicted sex offenders’ rights:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/cc/?id=110007364

    Also add their opposition to the property rights of churches.

    Then consider the temple recommend questions on supporting or affiliating with groups that oppose the church. I know that we narrowly define that to mean apostate groups but the question isn’t that narrow. Are we really loyal to the Church? It is one thing one our goals and objectives occassionally align but quite another to support the whole agenda (financially etc.) with a group that more often than not is in opposition to the full implemntation of religious liberty.

  4. Geoff B
    October 6, 2005 at 10:26 am

    Kaimi, this piece is well-written and very complete. I am wondering how many of the leadership of the ACLU you have met or know personally. As you may know, in a past life I wrote for the Nation magazine and was a journalist for the Miami Herald and other newspapers and magazines. One of the standard activities for journalists is to call the local ACLU chapter for comments on everything — church-state issues, etc. And I came to know a fair amount of them socially. (This is before I was a member of the Church). It is very fair to say that the ACLU members, especially the leadership, are violently opposed to religion in general and the Church specifically. It is no accident that the ACLU rushed in to oppose the Church in the temple square issue — their leadership is looking for any excuse whatsoever to oppose the Church. If you include their support of SSM, their opposition to the Boy Scouts (which is an obsession, if you ask me) and their campaigns against organized religion in Church-state issues, I would personally have a very difficult time getting a temple recommend, based on what I know about the ACLU, if I were a member of that organization. Kaimi, please don’t get me wrong — I have no authority over you or any other member of the Church who is a member of the ACLU. You have done a good job investigating the ACLU and its beliefs, as this post attests. Based on your investigation, you don’t feel it is an organization that opposes the Church, and you are certainly entitled to your opinions, especially if they are so well-informed. But based on my knowledge, I would make a different decision.

  5. Seth Rogers
    October 6, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Geoff brings up a good point. Another reason not to actively support the ACLU is its behavior and attitude as an institution (i.e. overly political and prone to holding personal grudges).

    I don’t feel up to addressing the main points you make, but I’d like to address the lawsuits involving the Church and the ACLU you mentioned.

    While ACLU lawyers may entertain personal vendettas against the Church in Utah, the “Main Street Plaza” lawsuit wasn’t really anti-Church per se. The lawsuit was filed against the city of Salt Lake, not the Church. The Church chose to join itself to the lawsuit to protect its interests.

    The sale of two blocks of Main Street illustrates a poorly thought-out property transaction, nothing more. Originally, the City wanted to sell the property to the Church outright with no restrictions. If this had occurred, the Main Street Plaza would have been private Church property (like Temple Square) and free speech would not have been an issue. In return, the Church offered their informal promise that the property would be held open for general public enjoyment (not fenced in like Temple Square).

    However, various members of the City Council didn’t like the idea and wanted it to be essentially a city park. The ultimate compromise between the two positions proposed by the city was to sell the property to the Church, but to retain an easement for “public access” over the property in favor of the City.

    The essential problem here that everyone should have seen, but failed to, was that the City was trying to “have it both ways.” They wanted an addition to the City that was essentially identical to a park or sidewalk and wanted legally binding assurance of that status (rather than simply accepting the Church’s assurances). At the same time however, they wanted the Church to have what it wanted: private property that it could regulate any way it chose.

    What people missed was that the use and purpose of the property hadn’t essentially changed at all. It was used for public access before, and it was still being used for public access. Even after the sale and all the landscaping, the EASEMENT was still essentially a public sidewalk.

    You can’t restrict free speech on a sidewalk. In fact, public sidewalks are one of the few places in America where full free speech rights still exist (the other being public parks).

    Essentially, the City was trying to be sneaky: have a public sidewalk without having to deal with any of the negative connotations that come with having a sidewalk in the USA. On this score, the ACLU was right: the City was trying to play favorites with the Church as the beneficiary.

    Salt Lake City wanted to “Have its cake and eat it too.” But unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways under the First Amendment. The City should have either sold the whole thing to the Church without restrictions, or they should have contemplated allowing free speech on the property.

  6. October 6, 2005 at 11:36 am

    “While ACLU lawyers may entertain personal vendettas against the Church in Utah, the ‘Main Street Plaza’ lawsuit wasn’t really anti-Church per se. The lawsuit was filed against the city of Salt Lake, not the Church. The Church chose to join itself to the lawsuit to protect its interests.”

    This is correct, Seth. A lot of ACLU-bashers assumed that the organization was opposing the church because it was suing to stop something that the church wanted to happed from happening. But their target was always the city, not the church; they thought the city wasn’t upholding their responsibility to preserve an unobstructed and secular civic space for the residents of Salt Lake. Obviously, there was a lot of animus towards the church on the part of many ACLU types, but that’s because, in the Main Street case, it was the Mormon church doing the obstructing–elsewhere, it could be the Catholic church, or the Baptists, or whomever. Their commitment is to secular conception of civil society, not to a necessarily anti-Mormon or anti-conservative Christian one. Thus, it is not an anti-Mormon organization, and so I don’t see how one could argue, on those limited terms anyway, that it is the sort of group that we are forbidden to support under the terms of the temple recommend questions.

    That said, I think the primary question for any religious person insofar as the ACLU is concerned is, more broadly put, simply this: how much to you value the popular religious shaping of civil society, and how much do you fear it? Do you fear it enough (as the Mormon family in the tiny Baptist town of Santa Fe, TX, apparently had reason to fear it) to want to make sure our public square remains unobstructed–that is, essentially empty–even if that means undermining local self-government and the beliefs expressed thereby? Or do you value it enough (as I suspect the overwhelming majority of Baptists in Santa Fe, TX, had reason to value it) to allow, within certain key constitutional limits, the public square to be fully adorned and governed by the beliefs of those particular persons who actually, locally, inhabit it? No one who lives in and appreciates the basic elements of modern liberal society could wholly reject the former, but to wholly reject the latter provides no more protection to “minorities” than the former does. Because, after all, if you are the ACLU, and you believe that all public squares everywhere should be similarly empty, then you’re casting a universal net within which almost every community is technically a “minority.” Which means the ACLU, supposedly a defender of minority rights of public access and self-expression against the tyranny of authoritarian, majority views, actually often fails to treat dissident, minority communities as they ought to. The fact that the ACLU never made a peep as the federal government came down on the Branch Davidians way back in 1993 is crucial evidence of this point, as far as I’m concern.

    I’ve no doubt that the ACLU is an important and valuable defender of those individual Mormons, or any religious believers, who want to make certain they are not crowded out of the public square. But I seriously doubt it is willingly to recognize the uselessness, even the harm, which their one-size-fits-all solutions pose to minority communities which themselves are threated within wider publics. But then, such a lack of communitarian nuance is hardly the unique fault of the ACLU.

  7. GeorgeD
    October 6, 2005 at 11:59 am

    So when the Church (via a donor) purchased the easement in a separate and subsequent transaction why did the ACLU get involved again?

  8. October 6, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    The Taliban comments that sometimes from the ACLU here kind of grates as well. I think the ACLU does an important function, but I have to agree with those who can’t help but recognize biases in who they defend and why. In addition they seem to become more and more partisan as time goes on. That is, they’ve become politicized in ways that I think are inconsistent with their stated goals.

    I also agree with Russell that they apply a “one size fits all” solution far too often.

  9. October 6, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    “So when the Church (via a donor) purchased the easement in a separate and subsequent transaction why did the ACLU get involved again?”

    I suppose because the ACLU doesn’t just think that public streets and walkways should be kept available to public expression, but it also doesn’t think such streets and walkways sold to churches, period. That’s an extreme position, which they justly were slapped down for pursuing, but it follows from their basic commitments, and not necessarily from anti-Mormon animus. (Which is not to say anti-Mormon animus isn’t present.)

  10. Lamonte
    October 6, 2005 at 12:25 pm

    Kaimi – Thanks for raising this interesting and important issue. And the comments that have followed are a great illustration of how people can differ on specific issues without their differences turning into a shouting match or brawl. When I read the editorial pages (letters to the editor) of the Deseret News, which I do on a daily basis, I am left with the impression that the ACLU is Satan’s law firm. You have thoughtfully illustrated the secular/religious differences in the positions we might stand behind as church members and those supported by the ACLU while at the same time helped us understand how we have all benefited from the ACLU’s activity in a broad and general way.

    I found it interesting in Steven Brill’s book “AFTER”, which chronicals the “September 12 era” and more specifically the year after September 11, as he explains how the ACLU and the most conservative wing of the Congress stood side by side in their opposition to the Patriot Act. Both groups recognized it as a threat to our civil rights. It’s interesting how two ideologies can reach so far out that they actually meet on common ground.

  11. Adam Greenwood
    October 6, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    “I am left with the impression that the ACLU is Satan’s law firm.”

    And this tells you that the letters to the editor in the DNews are unreasonable because . . .?

    All right, all right. Maybe that’s a bit much. But because Kaimi has a certain conception of how one can divide one’s religious and one’s political commitments, and because he happens to think the ACLU has been beneficial, doesn’t mean there’s anything to it. One can not elide from the genuine reasonableness of this discussion to the conclusion that the ACLU is not toxic.

  12. Seth Rogers
    October 6, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    Oh, I think that challenging the later sale probably was taking it too far. Like I said, the ACLU starts to resemble Ahab chasing his white whale more and more these days. RAF points this out well enough in my view.

    The ACLU claims that the second transaction was the kind of “appeasment” arrangement that never would have happened if the LDS Church wasn’t so dominant politically in Utah.

    Maybe that’s true, but I still don’t think it was a good case to pursue for the ACLU from a strategic point of view. It makes it look too much like the ACLU is taking this personally (my own suspicions say they are).

  13. Mike
    October 6, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    Thank You Kaime.

    This is one of the best description of the ACLU I have ever encountered. Although I am pretty hacked off at the ACLU, especially how it has attempted to cause serious trouble with the boy scouts which I believe is one of the most important institutions in our society and the best hope for a solution to many of our urban problems, as is the girl scouts….

    Distinctions between sin and crime that I am not certain that I grasp are entirely lost on teenage boys. The result of this conflict, if the rulings had gone the other way, could have made it extremely difficult for the scouts to continue to function (camping and hiking on government land) without ignoring the law which is a distinction not lost to teenage boys. Swallowing camels and straining at knats.

    Just as an aside, for humor. When I was growing up and the ACLU was fighting with the Utah seminaries over the released time issue, I thought ACLU stood for Anti-Christs of Logan Utah. Pretty funny isn’t it?

  14. Lamonte
    October 6, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    “One cannot elide from the genuine reasonableness of this discussion to the conclusion that the ACLU is not toxic.”

    I think “toxic” is a bit too strong here but I don’t disagree with your premise. I’m just complimentling Kaimi for presenting a reasonable argument when the usual comments from the editorial page of the Deseret News are anything but reasonable. It’s a little easier to make an informed decision when the volume gets turned down.

  15. October 6, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    “The ACLU claims that the second transaction was the kind of ‘appeasment’ arrangement that never would have happened if the LDS Church wasn?t so dominant politically in Utah.”

    Nicely put, Seth, particularly because it lays open in a slightly different way what I said about the ACLU above. For organizations like the ACLU, the whole focus on attaining, preserving, and if possible extending, spaces of “non-dominance.” The LDS Church is potentially a villain in Utah, because it is dominant. Somewhere else, where the Baptists are dominant, the Baptist would be the villains. So it’s not a particular beef with any given religion, it’s a beef with any instance of non-secular authoritarian or majoritarian dominance.

    The problems come when a two-pronged question is asked: 1) isn’t it possible for secular bodies or mores to also be “dominating” of a public space? and 2) if it is possible, then will the ACLU defend those “minorities” who collective wish to resist such dominance? My guess is that truly committed ACLU-types would almost always answer “no” to the first question, as it is a article of faith for them that individual freedom is maximized when the only rules which govern behavior are rationally determined and publicly disputable ones (hence, “secular”) ones, and thus they probably couldn’t even get a grip on the second question. Which is why, while I don’t think supporting the ACLU is necessarily any more morally complicated then supporting, say, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and I applaud some things the ACLU does, when it comes right down to it I’m personally not a fan: the ACLU has a simple-minded, black-and-white vision of what constitutes “dominance” and what doesn’t, and I don’t think that, in the long run, serves the public good particularly well.

  16. Seth Rogers
    October 6, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    The ACLU has fallen into the same trap that has claimed many who end up fighting “the establishment” in one way or another:

    They lose sight of their original, apolitical motivation (in this case, protecting the weak and disenfranchised) and start to indiscriminately fight everything that smacks of a majority viewpoint (such as the LDS Church in Utah, or the Republican party generally). They continually look for evidence that supports their hostility toward the majority. They start to take it personally.

    At this stage, you see such organizations taking up causes for no other reason than their political shock value.

    Let me use a non-ACLU example. I’ve heard elements of the Feminist movement condemn marriage as an inherently sexist and abusive institution. Fine, whatever floats your boat I guess … But then gay marriage hits the scene. Suddenly the same folks who were condemning the institution of marriage are delighted at the efforts of lesbians trying to get married. The hypocrisy seems obvious: Are you against marriage or not?

    The problem is that the Feminists in question have lost sight of the original aim: to protect women. Instead of “standing for womens’ rights,” their stand has been twisted into “opposing the majority.” No longer are these women serving women. Instead, they are fighting the Republicans.

    To borrow a church phrase, organizations are very susceptible to “looking beyond the mark.” Losing sight of the original mission and instead seeking solely for the destruction of a hated enemy. I’ve seen this same attitude in public defenders who seem to be more concerned with beating the evil state prosecutors than with defending their clients.

    I’ve seen the same thing in the Democratic Party. The Party who once brought you the New Deal has now morphed into the party of: “we hate the Republicans, so nyah nyah!”

    When an organization starts merely standing AGAINST something, and ceases standing FOR something, it has lost all its power to lead and inspire people.

  17. lyle
    October 6, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    To the best of my knowledge the head of the Utah ACLU is an active member of the church; in furtherance of the view that _individuals_ within the ACLU aren’t _necessarily_ anti-LDS; even if most of their work seems to harm/inhibit/work against the Kingdom.

  18. October 6, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    I think the “dominant” comment is apt. I think one big problem the ACLU falls into is “underdog syndrome.” That is, they aren’t really focused on rights everyone ought have. That is in defending civil rights. They are often sidetracked into merely trying to empower the underdog. And empowering and rights aren’t necessarily the same thing. When you start seeing everything in terms of power relations, I think you tend to get a tad warped.

    As to Russell’s comments in #10. I think you’re right Russell. But I think this just translates to that they’re not anti-Mormon, they’re anti-Christian. (I’m not sure anti-religion is right, as they are often favorable to minority religions so long as they don’t find them distasteful)

    The problem with so much of the current political speech including the ACLU is that it has become a kind of team rah-rah club. For far too many to be a conservative is to hate liberals. To be a democrat is to hate republicans. It’s like listening to the more egregious sports talk. I think that like so many institutions, the ACLU has fallen prey to this.

  19. October 6, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    Lyle, that’s an excellent point. Although as many have often mentioned, the way some members behave is sometimes like how anti-Mormons behave. But that’s a whole other topic…

  20. Chad Too
    October 6, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    I think the SLC Main Street suit was ill-advised and the courts bore that out.

    re18: I’m not so naive as to think there aren’t anti-Christians in the ACLU, but I think there a touch of a persecution complex showing up here. Why is it that Christian denominations find themselves in the same courtrooms as the ACLU? Rather than a “we hate Christians” attitude on the ACLU’s part, might it be that the Christian denominations are the ones more often crossing the line when it comes to the civil liberties of non-believers? Rather than admitting that we (meaning the broad ‘we’) step over that line regularly, is it easier to demonize those who stand up for the “others?”

  21. Boris Max
    October 6, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    There have been some comments in this thread about potentially withholding temple reccomends from ACLU members. Let’s step back a bit from that and think in more general terms. The ACLU is not the only problematic organization. It would be very difficult for the Church to vet all the organizations–right, left, and nonpartisan–that exist in the world to see if they held positions that were contrary to Church doctrine. Bishops and Stake and Branch Presidents would need to be sent special CD-roms with directories of prohibited organizations that support gay marriage, advocate not paying taxes, treat evolution as scientific fact, hold athletic contests on Monday night, etc. These good priesthood leaders would then be responsible for making sure that they knew all of their congregant’s extra-church affiliations and for ensuring that those afiliations were not on the list. That’s quite a bit of work, and bound to be extremely controversial and unplesant for the church leader.

    Instead of this inquisitorial approach, the church allows the interviewer to ask a general question about membership in oppositional or problematic groups. Then, at least if you believe in this Mormon stuff, the Bishop or President is guided by the spirit as to how much probing that particular member needs on that particular issue. But maybe the enlightenment-style taxonomy is the way to go after all.

  22. Geoff B
    October 6, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    Boris, let me explain my temple recommend point: we are asked (forgive me if I don’t remember the exact wording): “Do you belong to any organization that opposes the Church?” In my opinion, the responsibility for determining this falls primarily on the person who responds. I would imagine that if you belonged to the Tanner organization your would clearly have to say, “yes.” But, as you point out, there are literally hundreds of organizations that may oppose the Church in one way or another. In my opinion, the ACLU clearly opposes the Church, so if I were a member I would in good conscience have to answer, “yes.” But Kaimi has done a tremendous amount of research and determined for him the answer is, “no.” Again, the responsibility falls on him, not the bishop or stake president (until the day comes when the question is changed and different groups are listed, but I don’t see that happening any time soon). So, it seems to me that Kaimi could make a very reasonable case that the answer is “no.” In my case, based on my own experiences and knowledge, the answer would have to be “yes.” That was my only point.

  23. lyle
    October 6, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    Chad Too: Maybe; but standing up for others seems to curiously work out to standing up for positions that advances one’s own ideology.

  24. B Bell
    October 6, 2005 at 3:32 pm

    K:

    Please comment about the ACLU supporting convicted child molesters by fighting Megans Laws nationwide.

    Seems indefensible to me

  25. Kaimi
    October 6, 2005 at 3:52 pm

    B Bell —

    First, this is one area where my views diverge from the ACLU’s — as I’ve noted, I certainly don’t agree with everything the ACLU says.

    However, this is one area where it’s relatively easy to reconcile church views and ACLU views, because both the church and the ACLU seem to be on the same page here. The church has, after all, continued to rebaptize and reordain to the priesthood known child molesters. (And it has taken a lot of heat for this practice).

    Both the church and the ACLU seem to be of the opinion that a past conviction — including for child molestation — should not affect certain rights going forward.

  26. B Bell
    October 6, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    I figured you would diverge. I would imagine in your “balance sheet” the child abuse issue is a small negative when opposed to your perception of the good the ACLU does. In my balance sheet (4 boys) its enough to jettison the whole org as pro-criminal anti parent.

    I think that in some respects if you really think hard about it the ACLU is an advocate for child molesters. If I was a child molester I sure would be thankful that the ACLU was on my side in the battles over my rights to live unnoticed in communites filled with children.

    I do not see the reconciliation with the church and the ACLU over this matter. It far more complex then that.

  27. Kaimi
    October 6, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    B Bell,

    The church has taken no position that I’m aware of regarding Megan’s laws.

    And, as I mentioned earlier, the church has taken the position in litigation that it has no obligation to disclose the identities of known child molesters to other members of the congregation. If you think that disclosure of the identity of known cild molesters is always positive, then you are disagreeing with more than the ACLU — you are disagreeing with the actual positions taken by the LDS church that no such obligation exists.

  28. Adam Greenwood
    October 6, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    Not so, Kaimi.

    The Church’s position, if I understand it, is that it, as a church, is not required to disclose. The ACLU’s position is that the government may not disclose.

    Two cloths of a different texture.

  29. B Bell
    October 6, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Lets not confuse church and state here.

    The church will and has in my personal experience disclosed to entire yes entire congregations the ID’s of Child Molesters including details of disc councils, legal charges, past offenses etc. The church needs the freedom to operate as its needs to depending on the individual case.

    That being said the church is under no obligation to disclose the ID’s of Child molesters to congregations. But it probably should in certain circumstances.

    The state is under that obligation in my opinion. The state is different then the church. I see a huge distinction.

    I still do not see how they are the same.

  30. Kaimi
    October 6, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Adam,

    They’re definitely not the same. However, if the objection is “information about sex offenders ought to generally be disclosed” — which seemed to be B Bell’s argument — then they are both objectionable on that ground.

    And on the narrower issue of whether the ACLU policy goes against a church policy, again, I see no conflict between official church policies and official ACLU policies in this area. I’m not aware of any church position taken on the appropriateness of Megan’s laws.

  31. manaen
    October 6, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    To my surprise, I’m in agreement with Kaimi about the similarity of the Church’s and the ACLU’s positions about treatment of sex offenders. Here’s Pres. Hinckley’s comment about the Church’s position, with which I suppose the ACLU would concur:

    “I quote from our Church Handbook of Instructions: ‘The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse . . . are subject to Church discipline. They should not be given Church callings and may not have a temple recommend. Even if a person who abused a child sexually or physically receives Church discipline and is later restored to full fellowship or readmitted by baptism, leaders should not call the person to any position working with children or youth unless the First Presidency authorizes removal of the annotation of the person’s membership record.

    ” ‘In instances of abuse, the first responsibility of the Church is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse’ (Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics [1998], 157–58).
    […]
    “Now the work of the Church is a work of salvation. I want to emphasize that. It is a work of saving souls. We desire to help both the victim and the offender. Our hearts reach out to the victim, and we must act to assist him or her. Our hearts reach out to the offender, but we cannot tolerate the sin of which he may be guilty. Where there has been offense, there is a penalty. The process of the civil law will work its way. And the ecclesiastical process will work its way, often resulting in excommunication. This is both a delicate and a serious matter.

    “Nevertheless, we recognize, and must always recognize, that when the penalty has been paid and the demands of justice have been met, there will be a helpful and kindly hand reaching out to assist. There may be continuing restrictions, but there will also be kindness.”

    See complete text here.

  32. Adam Greenwood
    October 6, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    I don’t think that says anything substantive about whether authorities and people in the community should be warned. In fact, that might be one of those “continuing restrictions.”

  33. GeorgeD
    October 6, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    32 It is a continuing restriction.

  34. Seth Rogers
    October 6, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    I heard an interesting op ed piece which claimed the majority of child-molesters are not repeat offenders. It also suggested that past offenders were being too harshly stigmatized for the rest of their lives.

    Now, the whole story is a bit hazy in my memory and I can’t provide a citation for it, so feel free to dismiss it. Furthermore, I’m not saying I agree with any of its conclusions. However, it does make me want more information on this topic before indulging in righteous indignation and sweeping condemnations.

    In any event, I’m not sure how useful community registries will be if they lure everyone into a false sense of security that they’ve got everyone pegged and now they don’t have to exercise common sense with friends and family.

  35. Mike
    October 7, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    Both my sister, who is a therapist and couple friends who are psychiatrists say that the psychological disorder behind child molestation is so severe that it is difficult if not imposible to fully correct. I, along with normal people have zero sexual attraction towards little girls or boys. Child molesters are so strongly attracted to them that they will engage in incredibly elaborate and risky behavior to satisfy their appetites, because of these severely disturbed thinking processes. Even when they have full and easy access to attractive adult women.

    They may fully repent of doing those acts but they will always struggle with the desire and may have to make a conscious decision every day to put out of their heads those thoughts. And this is not easy to do over a lifetime. I speculate, but it might be easier to reorient a confirmed homosexual after decades of practice. This is why the recidivism rate for adult males over 30 years old who sexually molest girls under 12 is thought to be over 95%. Some grey areas exist; the 17 year old boy who impulsively yanks the pants off a 9 year old girl just for the heck of it, which is a serious crime don’t get me wrong, but this does not reflect the same level of psychological disturbance.

    Until we have better ways to treat this condition and more solid research demonstrating the long-term achievement of very low recidivism rates, we should error on the side of protecting the children. What if they were able to achieve a recidivism rate of say 20%? Is that low enough that you would want to leave your children alone with one of these “success” stories? How about only 2%? Those found guilty even once of these horrendous acts should never be allowed the opportunity to repeat them. I agree with the balance between consequences and kindness expressed in the CHI. The kindest thing you can do to a recovered alcoholic is keep them out of the bar. The kindest thing you can do to a repentant child molester is keep them away from children. We can “assist” them in building a new life, but we must not “assist” them in further wickedness. When we do the church looses millions of tithing in lawsuits.

    As far as warning people who the convicted molesters are so they may stay away from them, that is fine but it is not nearly enough. All parents must take strong proactive measures to not allow their children to be around any adult, especially men who are not entirely trustworthy. Even this is not enough because most of child molestation comes from trusted relatives and friends. The two deep rule is one solution.

    Women rarely sexually molest children but they do physically and emotionally abuse children. Physical abuse often leaves marks, briuses and scratches so you have some chance of early discovery. Emotional abuse has to be over longer periods of time to reach the level of damage of sexual or physical abuse. Having your kids cussed out for 20 minutes once by some wacky nut case will leave little if any lasting damage. Letting older women take care of your children in most ordinary circumstances sounds old-fashion and sexist, but it might be the safest bet. (Make the men scrub the toilets and floors and cook.)

    Most crucial, children must be taught what is and what is not appropriate and told to tell their parents if this happens. They must be specifically warned that the molester will tell them that bad things will happen to them if they tell, but they must be reasured that bad things will not happen. Which is really not true because the molester is typically a dear friend of the family or a close relative and reporting this crime sets in motion a process that will tear the family apart.

    For Mormons specifically; the homemaking nursery is the most vulnerable point in a typical ward. Volunteers are requested with no background checks and frequently men who are virtual strangers are left alone and in charge of children. I know of two separate instances of children who were molested in this setting who later moved into our ward. For a 9 year period I volunteered in the Homemaking (or whatever that other new name is) Nursery every month to insure the safety of my small children and the safety of their peers and friends. I brought a friend when my children were little and later used my children as helpers as they got bigger. Our ward has cancelled this service about a year ago because of various problems that have come to the attention of the local leaders. I don’t know if this is a local response, a regional one or church wide. It leaves the women who need the fellowship of this meeeting the most out in the cold but it still might be the best course of action.

  36. DavidH
    October 7, 2005 at 2:05 pm

    Seth,

    This may or may not be the article you recall:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/03/nyregion/03offenders.html

    It contains the following passage:

    “In fact, a number of studies have found that pedophiles – the group of sex offenders that has provoked the most public fear – have recidivism rates of more than 50 percent, and do not tend to respond to treatment. But many other criminal groups have higher recidivism rates than these “high-risk” sex offenders, said Dr. Karl Hanson, a Canadian researcher and leading authority in the field.

    “And outside of the high-risk cases, sex offenders are unlikely to repeat their crimes, studies suggest. Sex offenders over all are less likely to be rearrested than drunk drivers, drug offenders, and domestic violence offenders, Dr. Hanson said. Violent repeat offenders like those who committed the child murders in Florida earlier this year are extremely rare.”

  37. Chad Too
    October 7, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    Mike, re 35: The description of the Enrichment Night Children’s class in the CHI specifically says that it is to be staffed from amongst the “mothers” in the ward. That should help with any concerns leaders might have.

  38. October 8, 2005 at 12:29 am

    Kaimi,

    Your logic on all the sticky issues relied on the true statement that not all sins should be crimes. For example, envy would be hard to prosecute lacking objective mind-reading tools and thus would be a bad candidate for a crime. There is a continuum of sins ranging from those that should clearly be crimes (e.g. murder) to those that should not (e.g. envy). There is room on this continuum for reasonable people to differ. When a person or organization falls all the way to either end of that continuum, we can infer that they are not being “reasonable.” The real estate at the very edge of the continuum (for reasons speculated at by other posters) seems to be occupied by the ACLU. It would seem, then, that supporting that organization would be unreasonable or even illogical.

    Elder Oaks has observed: “Similarly, some reach the pro-choice position by saying we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.”

    Given that all laws legislate morality and that we as church members believe that our morals lead to a happy life and good society, how could we in good conscience support an organization that opposes our morals? In summation, I see how you can, by sliding to the far edge of the sin/crime continuum, reconcile church membership with ACLU membership. But I just don’t get why any reasonable person would want to go there.

    I’d love to read a follow-up post that would prove to me the goodness of the ACLU’s positions rather than just the acceptableness of them. I believe you are an advocate of the good and I just can’t wrap my mind around how you’re getting there. Please write more!

  39. Seth Rogers
    October 8, 2005 at 12:54 am

    David, I don’t know if it is or not, but it’ll do.

    My main concern is that feelings of disgust and outrage might cloud my vision to what is true and just. Whenever I hear people thumping their chests in righteous fury, no matter how grevious the sin, my alarm bells immediately go off and my first impulse is to step back.

    Just about every black lynching in the South was perpetrated by people full of righteous indignation, disgust and outrage. I refuse to become like that for ANY sin or crime.

    I don’t care how outrageous the crime. I will not respond with disgust and rage. Such reactions are unhelpful and merely signify individuals trying to convince themselves that it could never happen to them (just look at how angry it makes them!).

    The natural man is what it is. This kind of stuff can happen to anyone. We are all capable of the most greivous behavior (regardless of how much we shout about it). I would rather try to discern the root of such behavior and then seek to destroy that root. Getting all indignant and screeching for harsher sentences is a less productive response.

    Harsher sentences may be the answer of course. But I will not arrive at that conclusion simply because I am outraged.

  40. comet
    October 8, 2005 at 8:29 am

    Does anyone recall the peyote religious freedom case that came up several years ago? I think the LDS Church and the ACLU ended up on the same side in that one.

  41. gst
    October 10, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    Seth Rogers (#34): I’d like to go on the record with my righteously indignant and sweeping condemnation of those that sexually abuse children. I can live with the risk that that may be overbroad.

  42. Matt Hemmert
    October 10, 2005 at 11:46 pm

    I appreciate the idea of the ACLU–the original intent and aspiration of the group–but they do nothing more than pollute the courts and attempt to sanitize the mainstream of mainstream morality (include everything in the intentionally-broad “morality”). I grant that the ACUL gets an occasional nod from me, but the occasional nod is an anomoly and is outweighed by my head-shaking.

    I don’t care what limited good the ACLU has done; any organization that fought on the side of NAMBLA is an abomination. Absolute abomination. Millstone city.

    Anecdote: it was my law school’s ACLU chapter that fought and eventually convinced the SBA not to grant official recognition to a conservative law society I sought to organize. I guess 1A rights are only recognized when they are shrill, outrageous, controversial, obscene, and minority.

  43. Seth Rogers
    October 11, 2005 at 12:35 am

    RE gst:

    Go ahead if it makes you feel better. But it won’t solve the problem.

  44. b bell
    October 12, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    K,

    Can you comment on the ACLU supporting legalizing live sex shows in Oregon?

    http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/front_page/1128078061224240.xml?oregonian?fpfp&coll=7&thispage=2

  45. October 13, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    In a move that would have been funny if the ACLU weren’t so prominent in constitutional law, they abbreviated the 1st amendment. From their website circa January 2002: “It is probably no accident that freedom of speech is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment: ‘Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ The Constitution’s framers believed that freedom of inquiry and liberty of expression were the hallmarks of a democratic society.” (archived copy) The part they abridged reads, “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or”. I suspect the mistake was made by an overzealous marketing type rather than a lawyer, but it remained on their site (according to the Way Back Machine) from Oct. 17 2002 through Jan 2005. Surely some of them read their own website, right?

  46. October 13, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    Oops. That should have been “circa January 2005”.

Comments are closed.