Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties

By Katie Smith, ACLU at 6:04pm

This week, Rep. Peter King's hearings on "Muslim radicalization" dominated the news. We live-tweeted the hearing, and submitted testimony for the record.

Tuesday was International Women's Day, and to celebrate, we kicked off a women's rights blog symposium in honor of Women's History Month. We'll have a new post every weekday throughout March; see them all here.

Also this week: we sent a letter to Department of Justice urging it to investigate human rights abuses in Puerto Rico; we responded to the new executive order institutionalizing indefinite detention and restarting military commissions trials; and of course, a big win in Illinois, where the governor just signed a bill ending the death penalty there.

On a less serious note, did you see this week's Glee? We loved their treatment of the issue of sex ed—it was spot-on, and we think would be a great episode for adults and teens to watch together before having "the talk."

Issues of the Week:

Will Peter King's Hearing Carry Stigma Like Joseph McCarthy's?
Rep. Peter King's (R-N.Y.) hearing on "Muslim radicalization" yesterday was only the latest manifestation of discriminatory attitudes and prejudiced policies cropping up around the country that wrongly equate belief in Islam with terrorism. We've already watched in horror as local governments attempt to legislate against "sharia law" and unconstitutionally discriminate against people hoping to build mosques or Islamic centers in their communities. Rep. King's hearing serves to further divide Americans, instead of uniting us. Check out Washington Legislative Director Laura Murphy's pre-hearing guest post on Politico.com, and our reaction to the hearing here and here.  

Glee Rocks Sex Ed
Full disclosure: We're total Gleeks. We love the show and were so excited for this week's episode where Gwyneth Paltrow returns as a sex ed sub. And we were not disappointed! Glee dove into sex education the way only Glee can — poking fun at the school's Celibacy Club and the sex-positive sex ed teacher, while still presenting poignant storylines like Santana's struggles -- well we don't want to spoit it for you -- all while rocking out to "Do You Want To Touch Me (Oh Yeah)". But Gleek or not, you can appreciate the episode's bottom line: teens — straight or LGBT — need good information at home and at school about making safe and healthy decisions about sex and they need caring adults to talk to.  

ACLU Urges Justice Department to Investigate Human Rights Abuses in Puerto Rico
Those C-Span (or YouTube) nerds among you might've caught Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) railing against the reported human rights abuses going on in Puerto Rico last week from the House floor. At the end of his remarks, he submitted the ACLU's report, Human Rights Crisis in Puerto Rico: First Amendment Under Siege, into the House record. We followed up on that report with a letter to the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, urging them to act on the allegations of human rights abuses against the people of Puerto Rico at the hands of the territory’s government. 

Victory! Illinois Governor Signs Bill to End Death Penalty
It happened. Wednesday, at his office in Springfield, Ill., Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Senate Bill 3539, ending Illinois' dysfunctional and broken death penalty system. The measure ends an embarrassing history in Illinois, during which 20 men sentenced to death have been exonerated and released from the state's death row. Senate Bill 3539 was approved by the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate in dramatic votes in early January. With the governor's signature, the measure will become law July 1.

Addicted to Incarceration: A New Weekly Series
Today, the U.S. today has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and it's the highest it’s ever been in U.S. history. Our criminal justice system is failing on every count: public safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness. Across the country, the criminal justice reform conversation is heating up. Each week, we’ll feature our some of the most exciting and relevant news in overincarceration discourse that we’ve spotted from the previous week.

Don't Miss: The School-to-Prison Pipeline game Learn more about an alarming trend schools are pushing youth out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice system.

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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