Commentary

American Civil Liberties Union standing against civil liberties

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The civil liberties of this world have been turned upside down by the sexual revolution and also by the ideological revolutions taking place, especially on America’s college and university campuses.

The Wall Street Journal recently had an opinion piece by two of the most famous civil libertarians alive in America today, Wendy Kaminer and Alan Dershowitz. Their article has the headline: “Where’s the ACLU When You Need It?”

Now what’s most important to understand here is that Kaminer and Dershowitz are both former board members of the ACLU. What’s going on here? Here you have two former members of the ACLU saying that what that organization now represents is in many ways the opposite of what it represented for years, the arguments it presents now are the opposite of the arguments that presented just a matter of years ago, and they’re talking about their own experience as board members of one of the most famous, or infamous, as you would have it, organizations in America for the last century or so.

Kaminer and Dershowitz wrote: “The ACLU was once a nonpartisan organization focused on liberty and equality before the law. In recent years it has chosen its battles with an increasingly left-wing sensibility. In doing so, it has become considerably more equivocal and sometimes even hostile toward core civil liberties concerns of free speech and due process.”

Kaminer and Dershowitz point to many of the controversies taking place in terms of the shutdowns of free speech on American college and university campuses and they say that,

“On balance, the [ACLU] has been a quiet friend more than an active opponent of campus censorship [that now marks the American college campus].”

They then ask these interesting questions: “How often have you heard the ACLU speak out against progressive censors? How often have you seen it quoted defending speech in coverage of censorship news, like the violent protests of Charles Murray’s talk at Middlebury College? Did you hear it criticize the wrongful removal of several Jewish students from a pro-Palestinian lecture at Brooklyn College? Did you hear the ACLU condemn the vilification of former Yale instructor Erika Christakis for urging students to ‘think critically’ about rather than demand bans on ‘offensive’ Halloween costumes? We didn’t.

Instead, the ACLU responded to the Yale incident by chastising free-speech advocates for their ‘refusal to confront . . . discrimination and inequality on campus.’”

This is a rather comprehensive indictment of the ACLU by two of its former national board members, Wendy Kaminer and Alan Dershowitz, but rather than to go through the entirety of the article, the important thing to recognize here is that what these two former board members now recognize is that the ACLU is in the present making arguments the opposite of which it made in the past. The sexual revolution and the ideological revolution taking place on the American college campus has left the ACLU reversing its identity and its arguments. Rather than being the ultimate advocates of free speech and civil liberties as they claimed to be in their beginning, the ACLU has now become simply a voice for censorship on these college campuses rather than against. What makes this even more interesting is their generational analysis. They write this,

“How did the ACLU end up on the wrong side — or no side — of urgent debates about free speech and due process?”

They write: “In part the organization’s transformation is a result of generational shifts: The old liberal guard of the ACLU leaders is aging. The new guard reflects the left’s turn away from traditional liberal values toward a ‘progressive’ politics with expansive definitions of discrimination and restrictive approaches to speech.”

That’s really insightful, and it’s something we have noted before. What is disappearing in America is classic political liberalism. That had been traditionally the worldview that had been representative of the Democratic Party and many in terms of the cultural leadership of this country. But increasingly, it’s the old generation of true classic liberals, politically speaking, who are now disappearing. They’re being replaced with not younger liberals, but rather younger people who identify with the left. Just as conservative and the right are not synonymous, so also liberal and the left are not synonymous. The left is now the left wing moving progressively in more radical positions and both the Democratic Party and the American academic college and university campus seem to be headed very much towards the left and away from liberalism.

This is a really important article, the most important aspect might well be the identity of the authors of this piece. But what’s most important from a worldview perspective is the recognition that what’s happened in the sexual revolution is once again the world is turned upside down. The ACLU that had once been one of the most predictably liberal organizations in America is now merely predictably leftist, radical, and even hostile to liberalism. It is also increasingly hostile to civil liberties, which simply raises the question, how long will it continue to call itself the American Civil Liberties Union?

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, offers a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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