TBT: The Brutal Truth

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Anti-ACLU Rhetoric: An Exegesis On Fearmongering

Perusing through dKos's frontpage, DarkSyde posts an interview with Ed Brayton, the blogger behind Dispatches From The Culture Wars. The interview goes into the subject of Anti-ACLU rhetoric that the rightwing moonbats and their Fundy Fristian base keep milking in order to keep Bible-based Red Staters perpetually enslaved on the GOP's plantation. By reminding of us two specific legal cases, Ed lassos the entire Anti-ACLU brigade and yanks them violently from off the top of their moral tree where they then proceed to smack every single branch on the way down:

DS: The ACLU seems to be targeted for misinformation by the theocratic element of the GOP: Do you as an Independent sense an organized effort to undermine and/or eliminate the ACLU, and if so, who, what, where, and why?

EB: Oh, absolutely there is. The ACLU is a convenient boogeyman for a wide range of groups and it is very useful as a fundraising tool. Bear in mind what I said before about politics being now largely an exercise in marketing. One of the principal tools of marketing is fear. People are afraid and insecure in all sorts of situations and marketers exploit that to sell products. Afraid of bad breath that might make you lose that date with the girl you like? Don't worry, just buy our product and your breath will be minty fresh. And we'll sell you zit cream and teeth whitening toothpaste and weight loss products and even new cars using essentially the same techniques. And the same thing is true in political marketing. There's that great line in the movie The American President where one politician says of his opponent, "Whatever your problems are, I promise you that Bob Rumson isn't the least bit interested in solving them. Bob Rumson is interested in two things - making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections." And that is indeed how elections are won these days.

For a wide range of religious right leaders - Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and many others - the ACLU has become, quite literally, their meal ticket. By blaming the ACLU for the moral rot in America, they scare simple-minded folks who long for a mythical past when everything was so much better and induce them to send in money to protect them from this boogeyman. And it wouldn't bother me nearly so much if the marketing campaign was not so deceitful.

DS: What's an example of distorting or lying about the ACLU that we hear too often from the right?

EB: Oh boy, I can think of lots of them. I'll give you a general example ... In the early 90s there was a Supreme Court case called Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches. It involved a church in New York that wanted to rent a public school auditorium to show a series of films. The school district had a policy that community groups could rent their facilities after school hours, but not churches or religious groups. The church filed suit and they were represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, Pat Robertson's legal group headed by Jay Sekulow. They won the case, as well they should have. But when the case was over and they had won, Jay Sekulow went on the 700 Club and talked to Pat Robertson and they proclaimed that this case was a "great victory against the ACLU." There was only one problem with that - the ACLU was on their side in the case. The ACLU had submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs arguing that the school district's policy was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and should be voided.

Another example, and more recent, involves Jerry Falwell. In a nationally syndicated column last year, Falwell discussed a case in Massachusetts where a group of students were suspended from school for handing out candy canes with religious messages attached to them on a little card at Christmas time. In that column, Falwell said that students have the right to pass out religious literature "no matter what the ACLU says." But here again, this was highly dishonest. Not only was the ACLU on the same side in the case, it was the ACLU who wrote a letter to the principal on behalf of these very same students telling him that the suspension was unconstitutional, that the students had every right to distribute the candy canes and that if the decision was not reversed they would be filing a suit. The school reversed its position as a result of that letter, lifted the suspension and apologized to the students.

One could easily go on all day with similar examples. The fact is that the ACLU has consistently defended the rights of Christians to exercise their religion freely. They have defended the rights of street preachers to preach on public sidewalks and public property all over the nation, from Indiana to Washington to Las Vegas to New Mexico. They have defended the right of churches to perform baptisms in public parks. They have defended churches against zoning restrictions that are an undue burden on them, including defending Jerry Falwell himself against the city of Lynchburg in a case against a city zoning regulation that forbid his church from owning more than a certain amount of property.

Oh, and before we forget, we also don't know to what extent Rush Limbaugh himself waltzed with drugs other than OxyContin thanks to the ACLU's liberal-as-all-hell defense of his right to medical privacy. Nevertheless, by dredging up those two cases Ed shows exactly where Pat Roberton, Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins, Lou Sheldon, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly (just to name a few) would be at today without the ACLU: ON WELFARE! Forget those full loaded Lexuses and multi-million dollar vacation homes in Florida -- every single one of these sanctimonious blowhards would be ...



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