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In the Name of “Civil Liberties”

June 28, 2001

The American Civil Liberties Union has been in business so long that it’s a miracle that we have any civil liberties left. Though revered by the media as the “watchdog of the Bill of Rights,” the ACLU has always been devoted to the destruction of the Constitution. And still is.

Just the other day, the ACLU’s Hawaii branch scrapped plans to invite Justice Clarence Thomas to speak. One ACLU board member compared Thomas to Hitler and called him “an anti-Christ.”

Such vilification recalls the ACLU’s origins as a fellow-traveling pro-Soviet organization, when ideological enemies were slandered in the roundest terms, fascist being a favorite epithet. It’s telling that Thomas is likened to Hitler rather than Stalin: during the 1930s, the ACLU was full of Stalinists, even on its national board. It reluctantly removed some of them when Stalin made his shocking pact with Hitler in 1939.

It later apologized for purging itself of such flagrant apostles of totalitarianism, but it has never explained how men like William Z. Foster, America’s leading Communist, could be working for Joe Stalin and the Bill of Rights at the same time. Cynics like Foster were prating about constitutional rights in America, knowing that in Russia, meanwhile, Stalin was torturing and murdering millions who enjoyed no civil liberties or legal protections whatsoever.

As Eugene Lyons wrote in his 1941 book The Red Decade: “The presence of Stalin’s henchmen on an American organization of this type was an irony that no amount of sophistry could erase.” It’s only ironic if you’re naive enough to assume that the ACLU has anything to do with liberty.

[Breaker quote: The legacy of the 
Red Decade]But the Reds and their fellow-travelers specialized in appropriating venerable words for their causes and front groups, which were always “liberal,” “progressive,” “democratic,” and the like. One outfit of American volunteers who fought for Stalin in the Spanish Civil War was called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The old words and symbols were used to fool the public, while the leftists were fighting for the very opposite of their professed aims.

Today the ACLU is laboring to force the Boy Scouts of America to accept homosexual scoutmasters. What happened to the freedom of association, which the ACLU has always claimed for Communists? Isn’t Scouting a “valid alternative lifestyle”? Aren’t private organizations allowed to set their own standards and live by their own rules? And shouldn’t a group devoted to civil liberties be fighting against state coercion, rather than for it?

Communism as we once knew it is gone, but not the sort of people who supported it while it lasted. And they still use the same old semantic tricks, such as using phrases like civil liberties and civil rights while fighting for abridgments of liberty and individual rights.

Though its name appeals to our desire for limited government, the ACLU really stands for enlarged government power. Always has, and always will. It hates Clarence Thomas because he sincerely favors what the ACLU itself only pretends to favor: strictly constitutional government. The hypocrite recognizes the honest man as his deadly enemy.

And leftists have always used the coarsest smear tactics against their enemies. Even though Stalin is no longer around to supervise the vilification campaigns, that hasn’t changed either. Political libel is an abiding legacy of the Red Decade.

Of course the ACLU has no obligation to welcome Thomas, but then the Boy Scouts have no obligation to welcome homosexuals. This is so basic you wonder why there’s any argument about it. But the Stalinist impulse to subjugate every free institution remains; it neither began nor died with Stalin.

We can be grateful that the crudity of the Red Decade is long past, with its brutal one-man tyranny backed by adulating hordes of willing servitors. But today we face a more bland, refined, and subtle version of the desire for an all-powerful state, in which every institution is politicized.

Using lawyers rather than firing squads, leftist groups like the ACLU have perfected their techniques. The size and scope of government power are still increasing, under both Republican and Democratic rule.

If the Scouts can be forced to take on homosexual scoutmasters, why shouldn’t churches and synagogues be told what kind of clergy they may have? Will the ACLU draw the line at imposing “civil liberties” on religious institutions? Why should it?

Joseph Sobran

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Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2001 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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