Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (12/30/2011)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 1:11pm

Which ACLU lawsuit did The New York Times write about this week?

Who has been stopped by a district court from detaining or arresting people solely because of their race?

In which state did the Justice Department block a voter ID law?

What rights was the ACLU of Massachusetts in court to defend this week?

WTF? (What the Fawkes?)
The ACLU of Massachusetts’ Kade Crockford had gone to court to listen to their legal team argue a case to protect the First Amendment rights — freedom of speech, the right to anonymity, and the right to be protected from unwarranted government search and seizure of our private information — of our client, Twitter user @p0isAn0n, a.k.a. Guido Fawkes. That user was the target of a Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney’s administrative subpoena to Twitter to hand over @p0isAn0n’s subscriber information, including our client’s IP address, which can be used to help track down someone’s physical residence. Instead of witnessing the hashing out of justice, Kade got a first-hand illustration of government secrecy gone wild.

The New York Times Highlights ACLU's Religious Freedom Work in Public Schools
One of the most recent, and egregious, examples of religion being imposed on students in public schools is in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. The New York Times just published an article on our lawsuit on behalf of a student there. School officials in the Chesterfield County School District have hosted worship rallies during the school day featuring rappers who exhort students to give their lives to Christ. Preachers are invited to tell kids that they need a relationship to Jesus "more than anything else" to avoid drug addiction. Our client, an atheist student who complained about the rally and other aggressive activities to promote religion, was told he could skip the rally if he reported to the in-school suspension room.

Getting Joe Arpaio in Sync with the Constitution and Away from Racial Profiling
Last Friday, the U.S. District Court in Phoenix issued an injunction to stop Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office from detaining or arresting people based only on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally without any evidence of criminal activity. The court also certified the four-year-old civil rights lawsuit, for which the ACLU is co-counsel, as a class action. This allows any Latino who has been stopped or detained by the sheriff’s office since 2007 (or anyone who might be in the future) to enforce the court order.

Government Steps Up to Block Voter Suppression in South Carolina
The Department of Justice last Friday blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law, which requires voters to have a government-issued photo ID. If that sounds simple enough to you, it’s not for tens of thousands of minorities, students, elderly and low-income residents who are registered to vote, but for various legitimate reasons, do not have a government-issued ID. Right now, all they need to cast a ballot is a voter registration card and a signature at their polling station.

12 Days of Religious Liberty
No matter why you are celebrating this holiday season, we can all celebrate living in a country where religious freedom is a fundamental value. The First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses not only protect the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs.

In honor of our country’s proud history of promoting religious freedom and the ACLU’s commitment to protecting the rights of all religious believers to practice their faith, this holiday season we are highlighting 12 cases we have brought on behalf of a variety of faiths defending religious liberty and the right to religious expression.

This is your week in civil liberties. Let us know if this is useful or if you'd like to see changes. Share your thoughts: ideas@aclu.org

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