Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eleven reasons you should make a last-minute donation to the ACLU

Click here to make a tax-deductible gift to the ACLU Foundation.

11. Because you like to swear.
Admit it.  You do.  We all do.  There's nothing quite as cathartic as unleashing a few choice words when a day isn't going your way.  Even certain mayors know the value of a well-timed dirty word.  Trouble is, some people in authority seem to think there's a "no dirty words" exception to the First Amendment.

In the past few years, we've represented a woman arrested for swearing at an inanimate bathroom fixture, a man who was told that calling his business "I Choose Hell" was illegal for being 'blasphemous,' and a whole slew of people who used words that police officers didn't like.  

So if you enjoy the right to legally use every word in the lexicon, or if your family swear jar is filled to the brim, maybe toss a few dollars our way.  Who knows?  We may someday keep you out of prison.

10. Because you own a cell phone.
...and you'd rather the government didn't use it to track your every movement, or go through it when you aren't looking, or charge you as a child pornographer because you took a naked (or near-naked) photo of yourself.  Cell phones are fast becoming a new front in the fight for civil liberties, and the ACLU is working hard to remind the government that you don't waive your right to privacy when you buy a cell phone.

9. Because criticizing the government does not make you a terrorist.
Nor does protesting against natural gas extraction or attending a vegan block party, and yet people engaged in these very activities ended up in intelligence bulletins distributed to the State Police to warn them of potential terrorist activity.  The ACLU has been helping activists from around the state obtain information as to whether they or their organizations were listed, and has called for an investigation into the matter from an independent party.

8. Because you prefer practicing your own religion.
Another year ended, and once again we lost the War on Christmas.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.  Urban legends notwithstanding, the ACLU is there to protect your right to observe your religion (or no religion at all), and stop the government from informing you what religion you're observing.  Yes, even if you're a Christian.  

7. Because reading the Constitution isn't the same as living by it.  Maybe you've seen the news that the House of Representatives will start 2011 with a public reading of the Constitution.  That's cute, isn't it?  We're all waiting to see the looks of surprise when certain members of Congress learn what's actually in there.

As we're all well aware, however, there are plenty of voters and elected officials who are somewhat... let's say "creative" in their interpretations of the Constitution.  So while they get a kick out of reading the Constitution out loud, the ACLU will be there to see that it's enforced.

6. Because you're a sports fan.
Did you hear the one about the Steelers fan near Harrisburg who was threatened with citations for hanging the Steelers banner on her own house?  No?  Go read about it.  Yes, really.  No, I'm not making this up.

5. Because you prefer your flights sans sexual assault.
Remember the good old days when you could get on a flight without having to pose for naked photos or get groped by a complete stranger?  The ACLU has been warning the public about backscatter X-Rays for years, but it took the first-hand experience (get it?) of holiday travelers before the media started to raise a ruckus.  What the media hasn't started talking about is that backscatter X-Rays aren't limited to the airports - sources have told us that the government might secretly be taking naked pictures of you anytime you're on the street.  You might want to hit the gym.

4. Because some things are a little too ironic - don't you think?
Like a black fly in your chardonnay.  Or the government prohibiting free speech outside Independence Hall.

3. Because you look illegal.
Maybe that tan is just a little too dark.  Maybe you don't dress like a citizen.  No one I've talked to knows exactly what "illegal" looks like, but maybe I'm asking the wrong people.  The government - more specifically the Philadelphia Police Department and ICE - seem pretty confident that they know.  ICE was confident enough, at least, to detain an American citizen for three days on suspicion of being "illegal," even though he had a Social Security card and a driver's license.  The Philly police were confident enough that nearly three quarters of the people they "stopped and frisked" in the past two years were African American, even though less than one in ten of these stops led to an arrest.  If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say "looking illegal" had something to do with skin color....but I could be wrong.

The Pennsylvania legislature has been murmuring about passing laws similar to Arizona's grossly unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws.  The ACLU has already defeated laws in Pennsylvania targeting those who "look illegal," and we will keep fighting such legislation.  

2. Because our job is about to get a lot harder. 
I'll take a moment here to remind you that we're a non-partisan organization.  We don't endorse or oppose candidates for office, and we really do work with elected officials on both sides of the aisle.  That said, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that the results of Pennsylvania's mid-term elections (new Governor, new majority in both houses of the legislature) doesn't figure favorably for civil liberties.  

It's not about political parties, it's about knowing the individuals involved - individuals who have demonstrated themselves to be strong opponents of reproductive rights, science-based education, privacy, due process, and religious freedom.  No one in our office is concerned about getting bored in the next few years - though there are some concerns that we won't be able to afford all the work we'll need to do.

1.  Because we really need your support.
The mistake a lot of supporters make is to see how successful the ACLU is and assume that we're a huge, well-funded organization that doesn't really need their contribution.

Here's something you might not know.  In Pennsylvania there are fewer than 20,000 active ACLU members.  That's less than one tenth of one percent of the state's population.  The numbers work out about the same across the United States, and yet this tiny number of donors have funded nearly a century of work that has shaped Constitutional law in the United States.

There is not one person in the United States who does not benefit from the work of the ACLU on a near-daily basis - and for that they can thank a tiny percentage of the population who care enough about civil liberties and the Constitution to invest their hard-earned dollars.  Take it from me: whether you're giving thirty dollars or thirty thousand dollars a year, the ACLU needs you.

Click here to make a tax-deductible gift to the ACLU Foundation.

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