Today's edition of The New York Times reports that a long-seething battle within the American Civil Liberties Union has finally erupted in a very public way. Veteran Times staffer, Stephanie Strom, who has reported on controversies involving ACLU leadership policies and decisions over the past two years, this morning covers the launch of a movement of supporters seeking to oust the ACLU's current leaders.

Save the ACLU is calling upon “responsible members of the national board and the entire ACLU family to recognize and remedy this crisis before it is too late. Those demanding action comprise of a group of longtime ACLU members, donors, supporters and activists, including former executive staff and members of the national or affiliate boards.

The group has also issued a call for other supporters and Members of the ACLU to sign up and join them.

The crisis? According to Save the ACLU, Americas preeminent civil liberties organization is in grave danger because its leaders have violated the very core civil liberties principles that it insists everyone else observe.” [B]reaches of principle that include the ACLUs approval of grant agreements that restrict speech and associational rights; efforts by management to impose gag rules on staff and to subject staff to email surveillance; a proposal to bar ACLU board members from publicly criticizing the ACLU; and informal campaigns to purge the ACLU of its internal critics.

Among the 30 people signing the request for the national board to take action are Ira Glasser, the national ACLU Executive Director of the ACLU from 1978-2001; David Goldberger, who served as the ACLUs chief counsel in the famous Skokie case where the ACLU defended the right of American Nazis to march; Jay Miller, a former Executive Director of both the Illinois and Northern California ACLU affiliates; Norman Siegle, former Executive Director of the ACLU; and a number of donors and former board members.

For nearly 30 years I worked as the ACLU's fundraising and membership consultant, and believe me this is a particularly wrenching chapter in the history of an organization that is no stranger to feisty internal debate. But ACLU isn't the only group where the leadership has been accused of violating an organization's first principles.

Beyond the the battle itself the issues and questions raised are important for all movements, causes, and charities. Read on for more.

Continue reading “Struggle Over ACLU's Soul Escalates to Call for Ouster of Leadership”

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