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This Week in Civil Liberties (11/16/2012)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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November 16, 2012

In which state is the ACLU filing a lawsuit against a school district that banned a kids’ book about a family with two moms?

A scandal involving which CIA official demonstrates the need for restrictions on government surveillance powers?

Legislators from which state failed to learn that voters care about women’s health, as demonstrated by the 2012 election, and are pushing the most restrictive abortion law in the country?

What country is failing to uphold protesters’ rights according to a report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe?

Which organization filed a lawsuit this week challenging mandatory immigration detention, even when detainees pose no danger or flight risk?

You Can’t Hide Families Behind The Desk: How Utah School Officials Are Violating The First Amendment In Library Book Case

The ACLU LGBT Project and the ACLU of Utah filed a lawsuit earlier this week challenging a decision by Davis School District in Davis County, Utah, to remove a children’s book about a family with two moms from elementary school libraries. The book, In Our Mothers’ House, was written by Patricia Polacco, an award-winning author of children’s literature. The School Library Journal gave In Our Mothers’ House a rave review and recommends the book for children in grades 1 to 4. The school district decided to remove the book from library shelves and hide it behind librarians’ desks in response to complaints from some parents that the book “normalizes a lifestyle that we don’t agree with.” The district has claimed that having the book on library shelves would also violate Utah’s sex-education laws because it would amount to “advocacy of homosexuality.”

Surveillance and Security Lessons from the Petraeus Scandal

When the CIA director cannot hide his activities online, what hope is there for the rest of us? In the unfolding sex scandal that has led to the resignation of David Petraeus, the FBI’s electronic surveillance and tracking of Petraeus and his mistress Paula Broadwell is more than a side show—it’s a key component of the story. More importantly, there are enough interesting tidbits (some of which change by the hour, as new details are leaked), to make this story an excellent lesson on the government’s surveillance powers—as well as a reminder of the need to reform those powers.

State Legislators Double Down on Most Restrictive Abortion Law in Nation

This week, Ohio legislators may have reached a compromise on Ohio House Bill 125 which would ban essentially all abortions in the state. Ohio’s “lame duck” legislative session starts next week, and legislators indicate they may pass HB 125 before the end of the year.

From its introduction, HB 125 has been a sideshow in the statehouse, with legislators allowing fetuses to “testify” in committee, among other tactics. The bill has caused deep divisions even among Ohio’s anti-choice organizations, with Ohio Right to Life opposing HB 125 as too radical to withstand a court challenge, leading to several of its chapters breaking away.

International Organization Finds U.S. Violating the Rights of Protestors

The right to peacefully assemble, enshrined both in the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law, is an intrinsic element of the democratic fabric of the United States. Yet, according to a report released last Friday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international organization of which the U.S. is a member, America is failing to uphold this fundamental right. The report is the first comprehensive OSCE report on violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly that covers the U.S.

ACLU Files Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Mandatory Immigration Lock-up

This, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Garfield Gayle and hundreds of immigrants in New Jersey who, like him, are subject to mandatory immigration detention. The lawsuit — Gayle v. Napolitano — challenges the federal government’s policy of locking up immigrants in deportation proceedings without any chance for release on bail, even when they have strong arguments that they have a right to continue living in America. Many immigrants are locked up for as long as it takes to conclude their deportation cases, even if they pose no danger or flight risk.

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