ACLU Announces Diverse Nonprofit Coalition Opposing Restrictions on Recipients of the Combined Federal Campaign

August 12, 2004 12:00 am

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Coalition Members Will Discuss the Government’s Extreme and Dangerous Policy in Conference Call Today

NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union today announced that it has created a coalition of more than a dozen non-profits opposing the policies of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) that require charities to check their employees against a “”watch list”” in order to receive CFC donations.

The ACLU will pursue all available remedies to counter this policy and is working in coalition with 15 organizations that “”proudly join the ACLU in protesting this dangerous and ill-informed policy.”” The coalition includes:

  • Advocacy Institute
  • Amnesty International USA
  • Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Breast Cancer Action
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
  • National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • National Partnership for Women and Families
  • OMB Watch
  • Pain Relief Network
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
  • Sierra Club

“”The government’s ‘war on terror’ now threatens America’s non-profit charities,”” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “”The administration’s requirement to check employees against a watch list in order to receive CFC funds has created a climate of fear and intimidation that threatens the health and well-being of all non-profits – the people who depend on them and, indeed, the nation as a whole.””

The ACLU and members of the coalition will host a conference call today to discuss their efforts to counter this dangerous policy.

The ACLU said it is continuing to reach out to the more than 2,000 charities that receive funding through the CFC not only to inform them of this extreme policy but also to invite them to participate in this effort. The ACLU web site (www.aclu.org) includes a section with more information on the CFC policy and provides other CFC recipients with the opportunity to sign up in support of the ACLU-led coalition and challenge.

On July 31, the ACLU announced that it would resign from the CFC rather than accept its terms that violate the organization’s fundamental principles. “”When we learned that the government expects thousands of non-profits to check millions of non-profit employees against government lists that are notoriously riddled with errors, the ACLU took immediate action and withdrew from the CFC,” Romero said. Other organizational members of the coalition continue to be part of the CFC program while working to change the restrictions.

“”As the nation’s non-profits come to understand the implications of the CFC policy, they find themselves both shocked and confused,”” he added. “”But this type of policy is not limited to CFC recipients and, indeed, all employers should be alarmed and outraged by the broad and ill-informed reach of the ‘war on terror’ into our lives.””

Through other litigation regarding government “”watch lists,”” the ACLU has determined that such lists are error-prone and fail to provide any effective recourse to individuals to correct those errors. Furthermore, the privacy and associational rights of employees are threatened when employers are forced to ask inappropriate questions.””

For example, ACLU lawyers reviewing the CFC policy noted that a random name pulled from the “”watch list”” – Julio Ramirez – is in fact quite common. A simple online search found hundreds of people named Julio Ramirez across the nation. Any non-profit that employs a Julio Ramirez would now be obligated to ask potentially intrusive questions about his personal life and beliefs.

“”The CFC requirement imposes a burden on the non-profit community that it should not have to bear,”” said Barbara Brenner, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action. “”Breast Cancer Action should not be forced to choose between accepting these restrictions and putting federal employees’ contributions to good use to help women confronting a life-threatening illness.””

Rick Cohen, Executive Director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, added: “”The result of the CFC policy will be not to fight terrorism, but the likelihood that CFC charities will refrain from hiring people whose names even sound like names that might be on the government’s anti-terrorism lists, with the result of unwarranted discrimination against people with South Asian, Arab, and Muslim names.””

Additional statements from coalition members are attached and also are available at www.aclu.org, along with more information about the CFC policy and ACLU efforts to challenge it.

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