Hundreds of ACLU Members Deliver a Message to Congress: Stop the Assault on Constitutional Rights in the Name of Security Against Terrorism

June 12, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – A thousand members of the American Civil Liberties Union from around the country descended on Capitol Hill today making personal visits to their Members of Congress as part of the ACLU’s first-ever lobby day. They strongly urged their Members of Congress to act to preserve civil liberties as they wrestle with Attorney General John Ashcroft’s seemingly insatiable appetite for new law enforcement powers.

For more information on the conference, go to:

Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, called the hundreds of congressional visits “”a counterattack on the Administration’s assault on civil liberties and civil rights.”” She added, “”Since September 11th, America has been asked to choose between safety and freedom. ACLU members, in contrast, emphatically told Congress told that we can and must be both safe and free.””

Just 45 days after the September 11 attacks, acting with virtually no debate, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act. Many parts of this sweeping legislation – and other Bush Administration executive orders and legislative initiatives — take away checks on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that make America the land of the free.

“”We wanted Members of Congress to know that it is safe to stand up for freedom,”” Murphy said.

Specific issues ACLU members brought to their Members’ attention include:

  • The Attorney General’s pledge to seek new law enforcement powers through adoption of PATRIOT II legislation. A draft of such a measure, called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, was leaked to the media in February and just last week, the Attorney General pledged to seek new law enforcement powers.
  • Racial profiling and the urgent need for Congress to adopt legislation outlawing this discriminatory and ineffective law enforcement tactic.
  • President’s Bush’s scheme to create government-funded religion and the need for Congress to act to ensure that no taxpayer dollars given to faith-based organizations are used in a discriminatory manner.
  • Constitutional amendments that would diminish civil liberties. Specifically, Members were urged to oppose the so-called flag desecration amendment and to also oppose a Victims’ Rights amendment that is beginning to move in the U.S. Senate.

The ACLU’s first-ever Lobby Day marks the continuation of an intense grassroots mobilizing effort in towns and cities across the country and kicked off an aggressive campaign amplifying the voice of every ACLU member.

ACLU members went door-to-door visiting their respective congressional representative’s so Members of Congress could hear first hand the perspective of ordinary Americans committed to protecting their individual rights and freedoms.

U.S. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Artur Davis (D-AL) were joined by former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), Murphy and ACLU President Nadine Strossen in kicking off Lobby Day by addressing the hundreds of ACLU Members at a pre-event rally.

After the rally and congressional visits, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg addressed the membership at a reception. The day was capped off with an awards dinner, where Muhammad Ali was honored with a Champion of Liberty Award for Heavyweights in the Arts, Business, Science and Sports. Ali shared the stage with several other speakers, including David Chappelle of the Chappelle’s Show; Actor Dennis Haysbert; Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project; and ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Since its founding in 1920, the nonprofit, nonpartisan ACLU has grown from a roomful of civil liberties activists to an organization of more than 400,000 members and supporters, with offices covering every state.

For more information on the Conference, go to:

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