Here are just a few of our civil rights victories
from the last nine decades …
Championing Political Freedom during the Palmer Raids in 1920:
In its first year, the ACLU championed citizens being targeted for deportation, including politically radical immigrants. We also supported trade unionists’ right to organize, and secured the release of hundreds of activists imprisoned for antiwar activities.
Defending Science through the Scopes Case in 1925:
When biology teacher John T. Scopes was charged with violating a Tennessee ban on the teaching of evolution, the ACLU was there and secured celebrated attorney Clarence Darrow for his defense.
Fighting the Internment of Japanese Americans in 1942:
The ACLU stood almost alone in denouncing the federal government's internment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps during WWII.
Desegregating America's schools through Brown v. Board of Education in 1954:
The ACLU shared a major victory with the NAACP when the Supreme Court declared that racially segregated schools were in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Protecting Students' Free Speech in 1969:
In Tinker v. Des Moines, the ACLU won a major Supreme Court victory on behalf of public school students suspended for wearing black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War, a major First Amendment victory.
Defending Reproductive Rights from 1973 onward:
After decades of struggle, the Supreme Court held — in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton — that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses a woman's right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy. But the battle continues, and the ACLU is still fighting to protect women's right to reproductive choice.
Taking a Stand for Free Speech in Skokie in 1978:
The ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a Nazi group that planned to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie — where many Holocaust survivors lived. The notoriety of the case cost the ACLU dearly as members left in droves, but to many, it was our finest hour and has come to represent our unwavering commitment to principle.
Protecting Internet Free Speech in 1997:
In ACLU v. Reno, the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which broadly censored "indecent" speech on the Internet. Since then, Congress has passed numerous laws to criminalize constitutionally protected speech online. Each has been declared unconstitutional after challenges by the ACLU.
Exposing Torture from 2003 onward:
After a five-year legal battle, the ACLU obtained critical documents detailing the Bush torture program, including long-secret legal memos justifying waterboarding and other abuses and an Inspector General's report highlighting CIA abuses. The ACLU is leading the demand for full accountability for those who authorized or condoned torture.
Keeping Religion Out of Science Classrooms in 2005:
Eighty years after the Scopes Trial, the ACLU challenged a Pennsylvania requirement that high school biology classes teach "intelligent design" alongside evolution. The judge ruled that "intelligent design" is not science and teaching it violated the First Amendment, garnering nationwide attention.
Protecting the Right to Privacy in 2009:
In Safford Unified School District v. Redding, the court ruled that school officials violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old Arizona girl, when they strip-searched her based on a classmate's uncorroborated accusation.
Helping LGBT Americans Serve Openly in 2010:
In a landmark court win, an Air Force major discharged because of her sexual orientation was reinstated, contributing to the eventual repeal of the discriminatory and unconstitutional "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
The Struggle for Freedom Continues…
Today, the ACLU continues to play a defining role in protecting and advancing individual rights and the rule of law — wherever they come under attack. From the courts, to legislatures, to individual communities, we defend the constitutional rights guaranteed to all Americans, no matter the repercussions.