Being non-partisan, the ACLU stays out of elections, but that doesn’t stop politicians from trying to drag us into them. Invoking our name seems to be quite popular with politicians this year.
Take for example the race between incumbent Congressman Rick Renzi (R-AZ) and his challenger Ellen Simon. Ellen Simon once served as president of the Cleveland, Ohio, chapter of the ACLU. Rick Renzi continually refers to her as “ACLU Ellen” in his materials (it’s actually so over the top it’s kind of funny). But the worst is a television ad he ran that says, according to an article in the Arizona Daily Sun, “Liberal Ellen Simon served as the president of the ACLU, a radical organization that defends hard-core criminals at the man/boy love association (North American Man/Boy Love Association), a national group that preys on our children.”
There are so many things wrong with that statement it’s hard to know where to start. But here goes:
1. The ACLU of Mass. took the NAMBLA case, and therefore Ellen Simon and the ACLU in Ohio had nothing to do with it.
2. She wasn’t the president of the national ACLU, as implied, nor even of a state ACLU.
3. The ACLU only defended the free speech rights of NAMBLA, just as we would do for any group. This does not mean we support their views. We’ve defended the free speech rights of a range of groups, from peace groups to Nazis to anti-abortion protestors.
Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA) played a similar hand in his race against Charlie Brown. This is taken directly from Doolittle’s release on his campaign website:
Roseville, Oct 11 – Congressman John T. Doolittle called on his challenger Charlie Brown to immediately resign his membership in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization which has actively defended pedophiles. Brown recently told a local newspaper that he was proud of his membership in the organization.
“It is astounding that anyone could defend a group dedicated to aiding and abetting pedophiles,” said Doolittle. “Clearly, the values of the ACLU are not the values of parents or anyone else concerned with the wellbeing of children. Charlie Brown should be ashamed of his membership in such an organization.”
The ACLU has argued in court on behalf of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) whose website posted techniques designed to lure boys into having sex with men and supplied information on what an adult should do if caught. In fact, NAMBLA actually issued a publication entitled “The Survival Manual: The Man’s Guide to Staying Alive in Man-Boy Sexual Relationships.”
Truly unbelievable. I guess we’ve made some progress, though. It used to be just accusing someone of being a “card-carrying member of the ACLU” (a la George Bush Senior) enough. Now at least they have to connect the ACLU to pedophilia before using it to smear people.
Thankfully both Simon and Brown have defended their support of the ACLU, unlike Michael Dukakis. Of course I now have to quote Michael Douglas’s great speech in The American President: “For the record, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is ‘Why aren’t you, Bob?'”
Sara in Philly