Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (12/9/2011)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 6:21pm

Who is holding secret meetings regarding the National Defense Authorization Act and its indefinite detention provisions?

Who stood up for LGBT and gender-nonconforming kids to change her school’s unfair yearbook picture policy?

Which public middle school tries to force Christianity on its students?

What is the government trying to hide from the public by redacting or withholding State Department cables?

What did the HHS secretary ignore when vetoing FDA approval of over-the-counter sale of Plan B?

Behind Closed Doors: Congress Trying to Force Indefinite Detention Bill on Americans
The Senate voted last Thursday to pass S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would authorize the president to send the military literally anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.

Now, the NDAA and its House equivalent are in conference committee. The chairmen and ranking members of the Armed Services Committee — known as "the Big Four" — have been having one secret meeting after another over the past few days to quickly write a final bill. Three congressmen of the Big Four are responsible for writing the indefinite detention provisions.

My Name Is Ceara Sturgis, and I Am Not a Troublemaker
When graduating senior Ceara Sturgis chose to wear a tuxedo for her senior yearbook photo, rather than the drape typically reserved for girls, her school responded by excluding her entirely from the senior portrait section of the yearbook. The ACLU represented Ceara in a sex discrimination lawsuit against her school district. This week, the school agreed to change its policy so that all students will be wearing the same cap and gown in their portraits. What’s more, they’ve agreed to change their anti-discrimination policy to emphasize that everyone has the right to equal protection under the Constitution.

Second-Class Citizens in the Classroom: Promoting Religion in Public Schools Is Hurting Our Family
For about five years now, Jonathan Anderson’s family has been speaking to the principal of New Heights Middle School about how they do not appreciate all of the Christian overtones in the school and the outright blatant push for students to become Christians. Because they are not Christian, his son has been bullied and teachers and school staff have told us that their beliefs are wrong and that they should “get right with God.”

This week, Jonathan and his son challenged the pervasive practices of school-sponsored prayer, preaching and religious activities in the Chesterfield County School District.

Secrecy Without Sense: State Department Censors Cables Already Published by WikiLeaks
The government’s latest response to the WikiLeaks saga reveals its penchant for excessive secrecy in defiance of all reason. This week, the ACLU made public 11 documents released by the State Department in response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and lawsuit seeking 23 embassy cables that had been previously disclosed by WikiLeaks and widely distributed online and in the press. For the first time, the government has finally acknowledged that the WikiLeaks release contains authentic State Department cables. The government has released partially redacted versions of 11 cables, and withheld 12 in full, even though the cables released by WikiLeaks are available to anyone with an internet connection and a passing interest in U.S. foreign policy.

In Overruling FDA on Plan B, Sebelius Puts Politics Before Scientific Evidence
On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to allow the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step to be sold over-the-counter to consumers of all ages. Plan B One-Step has been approved for over-the-counter sale to people 17 and older since 2009, and when the manufacturer asked the FDA to remove the prescription-only status for those under 17, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (“CDER”) conducted a scientific study.

CDER’s scientific determination — based on the totality of the data and a risk/benefit assessment — was that Plan B One-Step was not only safe and effective for teenagers, but also that teenagers understood how to use it.

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