In the Name of "Civil Liberties"
June 28, 2001

by Joe Sobran

     The American Civil Liberties Union has been in 
business so long that it's a miracle that we have any 
civil liberties left. Though revered by the media as the 
"watchdog of the Bill of Rights," the ACLU has always 
been devoted to the destruction of the Constitution. And 
still is.

     Just the other day, the ACLU's Hawaii branch 
scrapped plans to invite Justice Clarence Thomas to 
speak. One ACLU board member compared Thomas to Hitler 
and called him "an anti-Christ."

     Such vilification recalls the ACLU's origins as a 
fellow-traveling pro-Soviet organization, when 
ideological enemies were slandered in the roundest terms, 
"fascist" being a favorite epithet. It's telling that 
Thomas is likened to Hitler rather than Stalin: during 
the 1930s, the ACLU was full of Stalinists, even on its 
national board. It reluctantly removed some of them when 
Stalin made his shocking pact with Hitler in 1939.

     It later apologized for purging itself of such 
flagrant apostles of totalitarianism, but it has never 
explained how men like William Z. Foster, America's 
leading Communist, could be working for Joe Stalin and 
the Bill of Rights at the same time. Cynics like Foster 
were prating about constitutional rights in America, 
knowing that in Russia, meanwhile, Stalin was torturing 
and murdering millions who enjoyed no civil liberties or 
legal protections whatsoever.

     As Eugene Lyons wrote in his 1941 book THE RED 
DECADE: "The presence of Stalin's henchmen on an American 
organization of this type was an irony that no amount of 
sophistry could erase." It's only ironic if you're naive 
enough to assume that the ACLU has anything to do with 

     But the Reds and their fellow-travelers specialized 
in appropriating venerable words for their causes and 
front groups, which were always "liberal," "progressive," 
"democratic," and the like. One outfit of American 
volunteers who fought for Stalin in the Spanish Civil War 
was called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The old words and 
symbols were used to fool the public, while the leftists 
were fighting for the very opposite of their professed 

     Today the ACLU is laboring to force the Boy Scouts 
of America to accept homosexual scoutmasters. What 
happened to the freedom of association, which the ACLU 
has always claimed for Communists? Isn't Scouting a 
"valid alternative lifestyle"? Aren't private 
organizations allowed to set their own standards and live 
by their own rules? And shouldn't a group devoted to 
civil liberties be fighting against state coercion, 
rather than for it?

     Communism as we once knew it is gone, but not the 
sort of people who supported it while it lasted. And they 
still use the same old semantic tricks, such as using 
phrases like "civil liberties" and "civil rights" while 
fighting for abridgments of liberty and individual 

     Though its name appeals to our desire for limited 
government, the ACLU really stands for enlarged 
government power. Always has, and always will. It hates 
Clarence Thomas because he sincerely favors what the ACLU 
itself only pretends to favor: strictly constitutional 
government. The hypocrite recognizes the honest man as 
his deadly enemy.

     And leftists have always used the coarsest smear 
tactics against their enemies. Even though Stalin is no 
longer around to supervise the vilification campaigns, 
that hasn't changed either. Political libel is an abiding 
legacy of the Red Decade.

     Of course the ACLU has no obligation to welcome 
Thomas, but then the Boy Scouts have no obligation to 
welcome homosexuals. This is so basic you wonder why 
there's any argument about it. But the Stalinist impulse 
to subjugate every free institution remains; it neither 
began nor died with Stalin.

     We can be grateful that the crudity of the Red 
Decade is long past, with its brutal one-man tyranny 
backed by adulating hordes of willing servitors. But 
today we face a more bland, refined, and subtle version 
of the desire for an all-powerful state, in which every 
institution is politicized.

     Using lawyers rather than firing squads, leftist 
groups like the ACLU have perfected their techniques. The 
size and scope of government power are still increasing, 
under both Republican and Democratic rule.

     If the Scouts can be forced to take on homosexual 
scoutmasters, why shouldn't churches and synagogues be 
told what kind of clergy they may have? Will the ACLU 
draw the line at imposing "civil liberties" on religious 
institutions? Why should it?


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