Leaders from Across Political Spectrum Meet to Discuss First Amendment Rights at ACLU Membership Conference

July 8, 2004 12:00 am

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Kenneth Starr Joins Leaders from NRA, Americans United and ACLU to Find Common Ground on Civil Liberties


SAN FRANCISCO-In a rare occurrence, leaders from across the political spectrum are coming together today for a lively discussion on current issues around free speech, as well as the right to assemble and the separation of church and state, in front of 2,000 members of the American Civil Liberties Union at the organization’s second annual membership conference.

Kenneth Starr, who takes the helm as Dean of Pepperdine University School of Law in August, will join a panel session with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, Jr., Americans United for the Separation of Church and State Executive Director Barry Lynn and ACLU President Nadine Strossen.

“”We wanted to bring together leaders who are very different and see what areas of agreement and disagreement exist under the whole constellation of First Amendment issues,”” said the ACLU’s Strossen.

Starr, who served as independent counsel during the investigation that eventually led to President Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives, has challenged the constitutionality of campaign finance reform, saying that acts such as McCain-Feingold endanger free speech – a view he shares with the ACLU.

LaPierre has been a vocal supporter of Second Amendment rights since he joined the NRA in 1978. But after government officials moved to curtail certain civil liberties following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, LaPierre has become increasingly vocal about protecting First Amendment rights as well.

“”I’ve been a freedom fighter for 20 years,”” said LaPierre. “”But I never thought I’d witness such a wholesale surrender of freedoms beyond the right to keep and bear arms, but also the right to privacy, the right to move about freely, the right to political free speech, and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.””

Lynn, an ordained minister in the Church of Christ with a theology degree from Boston University School of Theology and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, writes and speaks frequently about the First Amendment. Prior to his appointment to Americans United in 1992, Lynn served as legislative counsel for the Washington Legislative office of the ACLU, where he frequently worked on church-state issues.

The panel session will be moderated by National Public Radio correspondent Ina Jaffe. Los Angeles-based Jaffe frequently reports on California politics and received the California Journalism Award in 2002 for covering politics and government.

The discussion, as well as all plenary sessions and keynote addresses during the ACLU conference, will be webcast live at www.aclu.org.

For more information on the ACLU’s conference proceedings and activities, go to /2004memberconf

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