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Dispelling Misconceptions

Posted: March 31, 2015|

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By Megan Khatchadourian, assistant to the director

When you work for the ACLU, you hear some pretty crazy things during your time there.  ACLU employees have their favorite one-liners, zingers and conversations they have had over the course of their time with the organization – there may even be a running list of “creative” meanings behind the ACLU acronyms – but as ACLUers, it’s our duty to make sure the right information gets into the hands of the public. 

Below is a list of common misconceptions that we think deserve to be dispelled.

1.  We’re all just a bunch of crazy liberals!
Fun fact, we’re not.  We don’t care if you are liberal, libertarian, right-wing, black, blue or polka dot.  We’ve come to the defense over the years for Planned Parenthood as well as the R.I. State Right to Life Committee; the National Association of Social Workers and the Rhode Island Rifle and Revolver Association.  In short, our focus is in defending the rights of all, regardless of their liberal or conservative stance.

What we ARE is a group of individuals – 500,000 nationally, 1,700 locally – who understand the importance of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  In standing with the ACLU members help create a network of people who are passionate and knowledgeable and can fight to stop the almost daily attacks on our rights.

2.  You’re just another government-funded agency ruining everything!
We aren’t.  The ACLU is a non-profit organization that relies on the generosity of our members and donors to fund us.  We do not receive any state or federal funding to support our work. 

3.  You’re all just money hungry attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits just to get paid!
That’s not it at all.  Because the ACLU has a limited budget and staff, we utilize the services of volunteer attorneys to handle our cases.  As a result, it is impossible to represent every person whose civil liberties have been violated.  Although we have no formal guidelines, we are generally confined to handling cases which are not factually complex, which raise clear civil liberties issues and which will have a significant impact on the law.  Do we have cases that result in litigation being filed and attorneys fees being awarded, yes – but many more cases are settled out of court, or do not require litigation at all. 

4.  You are more concerned with criminals and minority groups, than the majority!
Yes, we defend those on the fringe of society, but we understand the importance of democracy in making sure that the majority does not restrict the rights of individuals and those in the minority.  In terms of criminal justice, we support reasonable law enforcement practices, and the basic rights afforded that allow for due process and fair   trail rights.  Studies have shown no reduction in the ability to fight crime because basic constitutional rights are accorded to those arrested for crimes. In fact, we’re all better off when police "play by the rules" and respect our Bill of Rights.

5.  You are against religion in all of its forms!
That’s not true.  The ACLU believes strongly in the principle of “separation of church and state.”  The First Amendment was designed to protect religious freedom; we simply work to insure that the government remains neutral in religious matters.  In doing so, smaller or unpopular religious are protected from oppression or isolation from their government, while keeping the government from taking sides. 

Did we help change your mind?  Want to learn more or become a member of the ACLU? Visit www.riaclu.org for more information and to read about our latest news.

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