Today Gary Daniels, a representative from the ACLU, came to talk to us about the work of his organization. There was a lot to talk about.
Interestingly, he started off by saying there are two groups who are strong supporters of the ACLU and he didn't know which one was most dedicated. One was Librarians, and the other was Unitarian Universalists.
The big lesson for me was his explanation of the way the ACLU addresses religion and the constitution. The Constitution encourages the government to accommodate religious practices wherever practicable but it prohibits endorsement of a religion. This is a very difficult line to walk. The government should allow prayer, but never encourage or lead a prayer. Ironically, many of the protections for religious practice built into case law go back to a time when evangelical Christians were seeking protection (see Danbury Baptist Church letter from Thomas Jefferson.)
We also discussed a fair amount of the most recent bans on immigration from a list of middle eastern countries by executive order. He explained that even if the executive order didn't explicitly ban people of one religion, all the things that the President said on the campaign trail will be introduced as evidence of the true intent of the executive order. It will be up to the judge to determine whether those arguments are persuasive.
Terror has often been used as the underlying reason to suppress religious practices, especially in surveillance cases. He said the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) takes the lead in many of these cases when it comes to discrimination against Muslims.
If you are a strong believer in the mission of the ACLU, then you really should consider coming and hanging out with us next Sunday. (next Sunday we are going to have a service on Jobs, unemployment, and what the heck it has done to politics in this country.)