ACLU Joins With Right-Left Groups To Welcome House Stand on First Amendment

May 25, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union praised the House for passing its version of the lobby reform bill without an amendment that would have infringed upon the First Amendment. The language of a grassroots lobbying amendment introduced by Representatives Marty Meehan (D-MA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) was considered vague and would have undermined citizen advocacy and activism.

“We congratulate House Members for their efforts on true lobby reform and celebrate this win for grassroots democracy,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Passing this bill without restrictions on the ability of Americans to communicate with their elected representatives gets to the true heart of the matter by targeting the corporate Goliaths and allowing the Davids to continue their battles in the halls of Congress.”

The ACLU, in coalition with a broad range of groups including the Traditional Values Coalition, National Right to Life, the Free Speech Coalition, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the American Conservative Union, has been fighting a controversial provision that would have infringed on First Amendment rights.

Advocacy organizations and citizen activists could have found their communications to the general public about policy matters redefined as lobbying. The ACLU and its coalition partners warned members to reject the language in any form. The Meehan/Shays amendment was defeated in mark up by voice vote last week.

“The House has successfully addressed the culture of corruption in Washington without harmful consequences to activists,” said Marvin Johnson, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “We’re happy to see that Congress recognized that restricting citizens’ constitutional right to contact their elected representatives and to encourage others to do the same is a vital part of our democracy. The House should be applauded for standing up for the right of citizens to petition their government.”

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