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In a remarkably rare move, the American Civil Liberties Union recently decided to actually defend civil liberties by sticking up for a Trump supporter from New Jersey who’d been ordered to remove profane anti-President Biden signs from her home.
That Trump supporter, Andrea Dick, has been displaying a slew of pro-Trump and profanely anti-Biden signs on the fence outside her mother’s home.
Or rather, she had been, up until Roselle Park Municipal Court Judge Gary Bundy issued a ruling earlier this month ordering her mother, Patricia Dilascio, to remove the signs containing profanity within a week or face a $250/day fine.
The story received national attention and, stunningly, even attracted the attention of the ACLU, which in recent times has been known more so for attacking civil liberties than for defending them. In this case, the ACLU decided to make an exception.
‘Ridiculous’: Judge hit for ordering Trump supporter to remove ‘F**k Biden’ sign from yard https://t.co/9u2VWVTR2v
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) July 19, 2021
“The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is representing the Roselle Park homeowner who was ordered last week by a municipal court judge to remove profane anti-President Biden signs on her fence or else pay a $250-a-day fine,” NJ Advance Media reported last weekend.
“The ACLU of NJ is representing the Willow Avenue homeowner, Patricia Dilascio, and her daughter, Andrea Dick, who said she hung the signs. Alexander Shalom, an attorney with the ACLU, is now appealing their case to Superior Court in Union County,” the New Jersey publisher added.
In a statement to the publisher, ACLU of NJ legal director Jeanne LoCicero warned that the policing of speech can’t be tolerated.
“All New Jerseyans have the right to express themselves freely under the First Amendment. Roselle Park’s ordinance against posting obscene signs should never have been applied to political signs,” she said.
Roselle Park is the city where Dick and her mother live. In issuing his ruling earlier this month, Bundy cited a Roselle Park ordinance that bars homeowners from displaying “any obscene material, communication or performance or other article or item which is obscene within the Borough.”
Now fast-forward to Tuesday, when, only days after the ACLU picked up the case, the Superior Court in Union County abruptly dismissed the case.
“The First Amendment exists specifically to make sure people can express strong opinions on political issues – or any other matter – without fear of punishment by the government. Today’s decision confirms that our position was correct,” ACLU-NJ executive director Amol Sinha announced in a statement afterward.
“Roselle Park had no grounds to issue fines for a political sign and the town’s use of its obscenity ordinance infringed upon fundamental rights protected by the First Amendment. It was an uncomplicated case,” she added.
Dick was thrilled.
“I feel amazing. I’m glad it’s over,” she said to The New York Times.
And seemingly all thanks to the ACLU, an organization that many critics note has strayed far from its original purpose.
As recently noted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, the ACLU has for the most part transformed “from a stalwart civil liberties group to a standard #Resistance liberal/Dem political organization.”
Great NYT article by @powellnyt on how @ACLU has become so unrecognizable — from a stalwart civil liberties group to a standard #Resistance liberal/Dem political organization — that its old-school iconic leftist lawyers are stunned by what it’s become:https://t.co/VUro9KuED5
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 6, 2021
The piece he linked to spoke of how former ACLU lawyers like David Goldberger, among others, have grown disillusioned with the organization.
“I got the sense it was more important for ACLU staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle. Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind,” he told the Times.
He was particularly concerned about the organization’s disinterest in defending so-called “hate speech,” which marks a drastic change in purpose for the ACLU.
“Founded a century ago, the A.C.L.U. took root in the defense of conscientious objectors to World War I and Americans accused of Communist sympathies after the Russian Revolution,” the Times noted.
“Its lawyers made their bones by defending the free speech rights of labor organizers and civil rights activists, the Nation of Islam and the Ku Klux Klan. Their willingness to advocate for speech no matter how offensive was central to their shared identity,” according to the Times.
But all this is now considered verboten, and that’s a problem, according to former ACLU director Ira Glasser.
“There are a lot of organizations fighting eloquently for racial justice and immigrant rights. But there’s only one A.C.L.U. that is a content-neutral defender of free speech. I fear we’re in danger of losing that,” he said to the Times.
To the ACLU’s credit, it does sometimes get it right, like in the case out of New Jersey, and also like in a case out of Connecticut in which the ACLU denounced the arrest of a reportedly white 16-year-old Connecticut youth who’d posted a racially abusive screed online directed at a black classmate.
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