ACLU of Central Illinois is a chapter of the the American Civil Liberties Union state affiliate, the ACLU of Illinois.
About the ACLU
Founded in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union is the largest national voluntary organization committed to the protection and defense of all persons’ Constitutionally guaranteed rights from encroachments by Government (broadly conceived as Federal, State, and municipal agencies, the police, public schools, prisons, the courts, etc.).
The ACLU is concerned particularly with the Bill of Rights, as well as the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and nineteenth amendments, and such issues as privacy, due process, discrimination, separation of church and state, protection of religious liberty against government encroachment, censorship, and freedom of expression, assembly, and religion. ACLU believes that the rights and liberties of each person must be protected against the tyranny of the majority.
A national, non-profit, non-partisan voluntary organization, the ACLU is supported by membership dues and contributions from foundations and individuals. It receives no government funding. It has State affiliates, which in turn have local chapters.
Anyone can join. Membership enrolls one on all levels: National, State and local. There are free newsletters, position papers, and discussion aids available on a periodic basis; a free Internet website that provides current news of importance on Civil Liberties issues, and, in addition, a Civil Liberties Alert e-mail listserve to which people can subscribe free of charge (when you join, be sure to sign up to receive ACLU emails!). There are specialized books and articles available on particular civil liberties issues.
The ACLU has three main functions:
- Educating policy-makers and the public on Constitutional and civil liberties concerns;
- Lobbying for legislation which strengthens civil liberties, and against legislation which violates or undermines them;
- Litigating, where staff and volunteer cooperating attorneys represent clients free of charge in selected cases where Constitutional rights have been violated; it also files “friend of the court” briefs in cases of Constitutional importance. ACLU generally takes legal cases where Constitutional violations are egregious and severely damaging, cases that have significant social and legal impact and future implications, and cases whose outcomes affect large numbers of people.
ACLU is non-partisan; it does not endorse or support political candidates or political parties.
Typical concerns of the ACLU include:
Protection of Religious Liberty Against Government Encroachment
- Opposes the Government’s establishment of religion (public school-sponsored prayer; display of a Christian Nativity scene at city expense; posting of Ten Commandments in courts or public schools);
- Opposes Government limitations on individuals’ ability to freely exercise their own religion (e.g., a school’s refusal to allow a Jewish student to wear a Star of David);
- Defends the principle of separation of Church and State.
Due Process / Equal Protection of the Laws
Works to eradicate racial profiling and other discriminatory law enforcement practices; defends the right to counsel and right to a speedy trial, and defends people against cruel and unusual punishments; protects the rights of immigrants, people with disabilities, and juveniles within and outside of the criminal justice system; defends reproductive rights, and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons.
Right of Privacy
Opposes unreasonable release and transmission of personal records (medical, psychiatric, financial, lifestyle, etc.) to third parties; opposes unreasonable searches and seizures, and government surveillance and record-keeping on individuals and groups engaged in lawful activities (e.g., the FBI’s spying on and attempting to “neutralize” individuals and groups perceived to be communist or a threat to national security, including Anti-Vietnam War protestors, women’s rights activists, civil rights activists, students, farmworkers, white supremacist groups, immigrant Moslems, and others).
Freedom of Expression
- Defends political speech, actual and symbolic—including signs, slogans, printed matter, and emblems on clothing;
- Defends the right to dissent, criticize government policy, petition for redress of grievances, and peacefully demonstrate;
- Defends religious freedom, and the right of individuals to express religious beliefs free of governmental interference;
- Opposes censorship (by libraries, schools, and governmental agencies of printed matter, broadcasts, film, and the Internet).
Freedom of Assembly and Association
Fought Chicago’s loitering ordinance, which was used to make sweep arrests of large numbers of persons, mainly young men of color.
And defends the rights of women; prisoners and other institutionalized persons; the “mentally ill”; teachers; students; the press; members of religious, racial and ethnic minorities.