Montana Tunes in to Constitutional Rights Via Public Service Announcements from ACLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Montana
December 14, 1999 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Montana
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BILLINGS, MT — Radio listeners in Montana are getting 60-second lessons on religious liberty, free speech, privacy rights, and other key Constitutional rights along with their news, weather and traffic reports, courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Commercial and public radio stations across the state and in Northern Wyoming are broadcasting “These Are Your Constitutional Rights,” an innovative series of public service announcements describing 25 pivotal Supreme Court cases.

The series began airing this summer on a number of public and commercial stations and to date has reached an estimated 100,000 listeners, the ACLU said.

Each spot, introduced by original guitar music, tells the story of a major decision that helped define our individual rights as United States citizens and concludes with the URL of the Montana ACLU’s website, where listeners can read the text of the announcements, link to the Supreme Court decisions, photos, and other relevant documents on each case.

“The ACLU of Montana has come up with an ingenious — and inexpensive — way of delivering its message to a wide range of people,” said Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the national ACLU, headquartered in New York. “We are hoping that we can replicate this effort in other states.”

The radio spots, created by media and legal professionals, are a joint project of the ACLU of Montana, Yellowstone Public Radio and HearingVoices, an online radio arts website. The ACLU is distributing the spots free to radio stations via compact disk, which is also for sale to the public.

“The anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights is December 15th, and what better way to help celebrate than to focus on these landmark legal decisions?” said Scott Crichton, Executive Director of the ACLU of Montana and coordinator of the project. “We are encouraging people to purchase a copy of the CD for their own personal use and for their children’s schools and libraries.”

Educator Eileen Sheehy, who teaches government at the Career Center in Billings, said the CD was an excellent educational tool. “The ACLU’s Constitutional Rights series on CD provides a concise look at the facts, along with a summary of the judicial reasoning decision and the rule of law,” she said.

Marvin Granger, station manager for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings agreed, adding that the professional quality of the radio spots makes them a popular choice when programmers have a slot to fill.

“One maxim of effective communication is to make one point, make it well, and make it brief,” he said. “The ACLU’s Constitutional Rights series meets that standard to a ‘T’ and fulfills that goal very effectively.”

The response from AM stations is also positive. George Carter, Program Director of KMMS AM in Bozeman, runs the spots regularly, and uses them to kick off the talk show he hosts called “Law Talk”. “Our listeners are especially fond of the First Amendment and the spots have worked wonderfully as a way to initiate listeners comments. I think any AM station would be missing a great opportunity for generating very deep discussions if they ignored this collection of constitutional stories.”

Crichton said he is excited that the project is catching on. “The feedback we’ve gotten to date has been very encouraging,” he said. “We hope that our website activity, which is already brisk, will intensify as word spreads about the companion website piece to this unique cyber-civics lesson.”

The audio recording and webpage component of the project were created by independent radio producer Barrett Golding, through his Bozeman based company, Record and Multiply. The collaboration with Yellowstone Public Radio was funded by private foundation grants.

The CD contains all 25 cases and is available online at or through the ACLU of Montana office (ACLU of Montana, PO Box 3012, Billings MT 59103; e-mail

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