Bad First Amendment News

TechDirt reports that a state court judge in Rhode Island has issued a restraining order requiring a Massachusetts blogger to take down allegedly defamatory posts. The order was issued without a hearing, creating due process issues in addition to being clearly at odds with the First Amendment.

There’s more about the case over at The Volokh Conspiracy where Eugene Volokh points out that the First Circuit Court of Appeals (Rhode Island in in the First Circuit) has ruled that even permanent anti-libel injunctions barring the repetition of statements found to be libelous at trial are unconstitutional.

The ACLU is representing the blogger and has removed the case to federal court.

Stay tuned.

Another Failing Institution?

Robby Soave has a post over at Reason that deals with a movement within the American Civil Liberties Union to move away from their century-long-held principle of robust support for the First Amendment.

“Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed,” wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memo obtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.

It’s hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment.

If it’s true, I find not only worrisome but also disappointing. The ACLU has been a valuable ally in the opposition to legislation here in Maryland that would gag the Internet by making speech that hurt the feelings of a minor punishable by upto three years in prison. If the ACLU were to switch sides on that, a bill would certainly pass our legislature.

It seems fairly clear to me what’s happening here. Leadership would probably like the ACLU to remain a pro-First Amendment organization, but they would also like to remain in good standing with their progressive allies. Unfortunately, young progressives are increasingly hostile to free speech, which they view as synonymous with racist hate speech. Speech that impugns marginalized persons is not speech at all, in their view, but violence. This is why a student Black Lives Matter group shut down an ACLU event at the College of William & Mary last year, chanting “liberalism is white supremacy” and “the revolution will not uphold the Constitution.” Campus activism is illiberal, and liberal free speech norms conflict with the broad protection of emotional comfort that the young, modern left demands.

The ACLU’s capitulation to the anti-speech left should serve as a wake up call for true liberals. What has taken place on campus over the last decade does matter, and though the scope of the problem is frequently overstated, we should all be concerned when the nation’s premiere civil liberties organization is increasingly afraid of defending the First Amendment—not because the Trump administration scares them, but because college students do.

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Back in the Real World …

… the interim Director of the Georgia ACLU has resigned over that organization’s position on transgender rights after her young daughters were frightened by men in a women’s restroom. PowerLine reports:

Dillard Smith complained that the ACLU has become “a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights” and that the “hierarchy of rights” the ACLU chooses to defend or ignore is “based on who is funding the organization’s lobbying activities.”

Read the whole thing.

Dogs and Cats Living Together!

(H/T, Shall Not Be Questioned) Reuters is reporting that the NRA is filing an amicus brief in support of the ACLU’s suit against the Obama Administration concerning NSA surveillance. The ACLU is welcoming the NRA’s support.

The ACLU is asking the court to stop the NSA’s program of tracking telephone calls, to declare the program illegal, and to order the government to purge all its databases of the call records.  The NRA says in its brief

The mass surveillance program could allow identification of NRA members, supporters, potential members, and other persons with whom the NRA communicates, potentially chilling their willingness to communicate with the NRA.

The NRA has also notes that the Obama Administration’s interpretation of section 215 of the the Patriot act would have the effect of nullifying the statutory ban on the centralization of gun purchase and ownership records.

If They’ve Lost the ACLU …

The NRA is not the only civil rights organization opposed to the Senator Reid’s universal background check bill. Now, the ACLU is piling on, citing severe privacy issues. The problem is the retention of transaction records for private sales. Buying a gun at retail requires a background check, but the record of the check is normally destroyed with 24 hours. The Reid bill would require that the record of a private transfer be maintained, and there is nothing in the bill that would prohibit the Justice Department from using those records to create a gun registry.

The last time I remember the ACLU siding against the Democrats in the Senate was during the filibuster over the Civil Rights Act during the ’60s.

An Old Friend Grows Senile

Unlike many of my conservative friends, I have always had a (sometimes grudging) respect for the ACLU. Alas, it seems that this once noble organization’s thinking is deteriorating with old age and that it can no longer tell left-wing politics from constitutional principles. This once vigorous defender of the First Amendment now sees no problem with the Obamacare regulations requiring church-based organizations to fund medical procedures that violate their religious beliefs. Watch the video on the ACLU page at the link.


UPDATE–Ed Morrissey’s reaction is not as kind as mine, but it may be more accurate.

The rights in the Constitution are not granted to American citizens because the government decided to offer them beneficently at their discretion. They exist in the document as a testament to our natural rights, part of our innate humanness, and are detailed in the Constitution as a bar to government’s overreach in trampling them. If the ACLU can’t figure that much out, then not only have they jumped the shark, they’ve nuked the fridge and made themselves entirely irrelevant except for the elitist crowd that cheers on tyranny.

Read the whole thing.